Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBCSN Has Decent Sunday, FOX Sports 1 Has a Nightmare

Martinsville was very interesting.  The rules package made for another anticlimactic Cup race with a grand total of three lead changes.  That’s the same as what we had back in March.  Then again, the weekend will be remembered for two instances.

First Data 500

Yes, Martin Truex Jr. dominated Sunday’s First Data 500, leading 464 of the 500 laps.  Racing-wise, that’s what the race will be remembered.

Away from that, you have the brouhaha that erupted between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.  As you’re aware, that whole stupidity started when Logano basically was led to the wall on lap 457 by Hamlin.

The wall contact resulted in a tire rub that cut a tire.  Logano then spun in turn 1 to bring out a yellow.  Despite the incident, Logano was able to get back to eighth.  The incident was caught live on NBCSN, but they cut away to Logano’s roof cam before viewers could see whether he had a flat tire or not.

The shoving match that broke out occurred during Truex’s first interview (on-track) with Rutledge Wood.  Basically, we’re talking the same scenario here that we had at Kansas after Kansas Lottery 300.  Fight breaks out during the frontstretch (or in this case, turn 1 since Martinsville Speedway has to bring out the stage) and NBCSN has to react to it.

Dave Nichols Jr., tire specialist on Logano’s No. 22 has been suspended for one race for grabbing Hamlin and effectively throwing him to the ground.  I’m fine with the penalty.  What he did would be considered a personal foul in the NFL, but it’s not quite a horse-collar tackle.  What he did do (grabbing Hamlin by the back of his fire suit and throwing him to the ground) is treated similarly by the NFL to a horse-collar tackle.  Of note, this tackle was not really referenced on the broadcast

That was followed up by an interview with Hamlin.  This is where he impersonated Logano.  Logano did an interview in the garage.

Here, NBCSN erroneously reported that Logano had been summoned to the NASCAR hauler for a consultation.  That was not the case.  They invited Nichols and crew chief Todd Gordon for a chat, though (remember, the crew chief is responsible for the behavior of everyone on the crew).

Post-race coverage was dominated by the fight.  Pretty much all of NASCAR Victory Lap was based about that shoving match.  Because of that, the amount of variety in post-race coverage was limited.  Viewers only heard from five drivers after the race in 100 minutes of post-race.

Pre-race coverage saw some decent interviews of drivers.  Naturally, this was playoff-focused.  Corey LaJoie was the exception in his Mystery Machine-themed Mustang.

The Behind the Driver piece this weekend just so happened to focus on Hamlin.  Here, Hamlin talked about the sacrifices that his parents (particularly his father, Dennis) made so that he could continue to race.  This piece was interesting, but potentially stunted in it’s impact due to the fact that NBCSN already aired a Racing Roots episode with Hamlin earlier this year that covered a lot of the same subject matter in more detail.

While there really wasn’t much action at the front of the field, there was a good amount of racing for position Sunday.  Those in attendance (both fans and media) were likely quite satisfied if you kept your gaze away from the very front of the field.  Problem is, that isn’t always the case on television.

In reality, Clint Bowyer was probably the best man to take on Truex on Sunday.  Then, he had the tire issue.  The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 team made the mistake of going with two tires and missing the one that was flat.  Ultimately, that resulted in a flat, a caution and Bowyer way out of the hunt.  Wouldn’t be shocked if that led to the failure that ultimately put him out.

I want to give some attention to how Steve Letarte handled this situation.  He was honest and used his own personal experience as to why he would have just changed the four tires up front and disregarded the guessing.  I’d argue today that it’s even harder to guess which tire would be going down with the no ride height rules. By today’s standards, it’s only an extra five seconds to take four tires.  You’re already taking the big hit making the stop under green in the first place.

Had the Hamlin-Logano shenanigans not happened, a substantial amount of discussion would have been given to the contact between Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch while fighting for a spot in the top five.  The resulting incident put Almirola out, while Busch faded to 14th.

Almirola clearly seemed upset and indicated that it might affect the way that he will race the No. 18 for the rest of the year.  As for Busch, he didn’t say much after the race.  He was not pleased and when he’s not pleased, he doesn’t say much.

Overall, there was a decent amount of racing for fans to enjoy on Sunday.  The playoff focus was heavy, but likely not as heavy as it will be in Texas and at ISM Raceway.  Non-playoff drivers got their chance to shine.  The fight will likely overshadow everything else that happened.  Luckily, NBCSN had a cameraman in position with a good shot of the shenanigans.

NASCAR Hall of Fame 200

Oh boy.  This race is not going to go down as a bright spot for FOX Sports 1.

As you are well aware of now, viewers could not see the end of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race live due to a technical issue.  Apparently, there was some kind of connection issue between the mobile production in Martinsville and FOX Sports’ facilities in Los Angeles.  Former Frontstretch writer Nick Bromberg capped the issue Saturday as it happened.

This was what you missed.

Needless to say, there was a lot that happened in less than a minute.  Had the race not run long because of the 12 cautions, maybe we could have gotten some additional coverage.

Not on this day.  The feed came back while Todd Gilliland was doing his victory burnout on the frontstretch.  At that point, Vince Welch stated that they had to leave for the Oklahoma State-Iowa State game, so they did, immediately.  Without giving viewers an idea of what they missed.  There was no post-race coverage at that point.  Just gone.

That is a terrible look for FOX Sports 1.  I know that they needed to get to Iowa for the football (which was already airing on FOX Sports 2, but there’s a substantial difference in availability between the two channels), but this needed to be rectified first.  Not doing so (officially, they left it to the aforementioned tweet and their re-air, which was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sunday morning on FOX Sports 2) makes everyone involved look bad.

They couldn’t have stayed in Martinsville for three extra minutes?  The move elicited a lot of anger online.  The general thoughts of a number of race fans on the internet is that FOX Sports doesn’t seem to care as much about NASCAR (and especially the Gander Outdoors Truck Series) as they used to.

Do I think that’s true?  To a certain extent, yes.  To the degree we saw Saturday? No.  If they truly cared fully about the series, they’d still send the broadcast booth to all 23 races.

Has something like this ever happened before?  Yes.  Probably the most notable example was CBS having issues at the 1981 Talladega 500.  The signal went out on lap 180 and never came back.

Luckily, they did get everything on camera.  Obviously, there was no social media around in 1981 to share the finish.  It ended up being aired on the news that night and a week later on CBS during a sports desk segment, as seen in the clip above.  That was simply bad luck.

Another occasion occurred at Talladega in 1995 during the then-Busch Grand National race.  The feed cutout during a caution for the second big wreck of the day with seven laps to go.  Eventually, TNN replayed the one-lap shootout 20 minutes after it happened due to the blackout.  And yes, this race was a wreckfest.

TNN didn’t have to worry about football encroaching on the broadcast.  It was July and TNN didn’t air football at that time (I don’t believe they did until the XFL came around in 2001).

Obviously, this scenario negatively affected the broadcast.  I was quite displeased at how FOX Sports 1 went about this.  Yes, there’s football fans clamoring for their Big XII football, but they needed to provide some kind of closure to this broadcast.  They didn’t (at least not live).  Fans are not going to forget this mess.

However, three to five minutes of a broadcast do not make a race broadcast.  There was more to look at.  Pre-race coverage was relatively thin.  Only a couple of pre-race interviews, but a lot of analysis.  There was also plenty of discussion of Spencer Boyd’s victory at Talladega.

The race itself saw a good amount of racing for position and plenty of contact.  It was relatively calm early on, then the stupidity started.  The wrecking was constant.

Also, I spent a good amount of the race dealing with pixilation issues on my TV.  No one else with Frontstretch experienced this issue.  I thought that it might have been my TV.  So, I moved upstairs and the TV there was fine.  But so was the one in the basement that I usually critique off of.

I stayed upstairs until I had to mess around with my DVR (the race ran long and I had to add time to the recording).  By the time that happened, the pixilation was back.  If anyone else dealt with this irritant, by all means comment below.

Saturday will not go down as a good day for FOX Sports 1’s NASCAR coverage.  Technical issues can happen, believe me.  If you’ve never been in a TV compound, trust me when I say that there is a lot of equipment around.  Darn near anything can create a nightmare scenario.  I don’t think it was quite as simple as someone forgetting to fill up the generator (like in the XFL back in 2001), though.

That’s all for this week.  Next weekend sees the world of motorsports centered on the state of Texas.  Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series teams will be at Texas Motor Speedway, where Eddie Gossage is already hoping for more fireworks.

In addition, Formula 1 will make their annual visit to Circuit of the Americas near Austin.  There will be sprint car racing at Texas Motor Speedway as well.  Listings are in the Television tab.

We will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.  The Critic’s Annex is currently undecided.  Might take a look back at some of NBC Sports’ IMSA coverage since their 2019 season is now over.

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

2021 Phil Allaway Headshot Phil Allaway

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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The FS1 decable on Saturday reminded me of many Saturday afternoons of ESPN’s Busch Series coverage, especially when it became evident that ESPN wanted nothing to do with the negotiations of the current TV contract. The races were an annoyance in between football games, usually within the most narrow of broadcast windows.
Fans can more easily forgive the technical difficulties than the abrupt cut over to football.


* Debacle


I understand technical issues happen. But…an organization with any amount of professionalism would have come back on air, apologized for the technical difficulties, and then showed the fans (who had been watching for the past 2 hours) a replay of the GWC finish. That scenario had to have been covered in “intro to live TV broadcasting 101” class.


Reminds me of The Heidi Game.


Sadly botched broadcast will be the norm for 5 more years since the existing contracts do not
expire till the end of the 2024 season which by then TV partners won’t be a easy sale since
FOX will still be deep into stick & ball sports and NBC who knows.

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