In the third series-wide TV contract, the month of May has become a cable month for NASCAR. It’s not exactly great for the NASCAR Cup Series as it lowers the series’ visibility, but it’s what we have.
Before we get started, film distributor Utopia announced Wednesday that it will have a new documentary about Kyle Busch entitled Rowdy that will debut at the end of June in Nashville. It will have a one-night theatrical run in selected theaters on June 29.
The whole thing strikes me as being somewhat similar to Blink of an Eye, the film based on Michael Waltrip’s book, right down to the fact that Fathom Events is involved in the theatrical release. If the film is available locally in the Albany, N.Y. area, I intend on attending with pen and notebook in hand. Tickets go on sale Friday.
Sunday brought the NASCAR Cup Series to Kansas Speedway for its first visit of the year. The big story of the whole weekend surrounded the tires and the various failures.
FOX Sports acknowledged this issue early and often. During the “What About Bob?” at the start of NASCAR RaceDay, it was the top story of the week, as it should have been.
Problem is, that isn’t exactly sexy. It can get down to the nuts and bolts. For purists, that’s fine. Those who aren’t diehards might get turned off.
Of course, Darlington brought the gift to FOX Sports that was the Joey Logano–William Byron spat. Is it over, or it is not? I don’t know, but it gave plenty of material for NASCAR RaceDay. We covered the story Friday after both drivers talked to the media in Kansas.
All I can tell you is that it was all for naught. Nothing really happened between the two of them all day, mainly because Logano crashed in practice (because of the aforementioned tire issue) and struggled for most of the day in a backup car before finishing 17th. I think they needed to cover it to a certain degree, but not as much as they actually did.
In regards to the tires, the tires seemed to fail (if they were going to) 20-25 laps into a run. Daniel Suarez, Tyler Reddick, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell all had their failures in or around that time period. Larry McReynolds theorized that the teams started too low on air pressure. This would cause some internal issues in the tire. The cords could break inside. As air would build up, the broken cords could cause the failure.
In regards to Erik Jones’ wheel nut issue, I’m reminded of the 2004 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. There, Miracle Motorsports had trouble for much of the race with getting the left rear wheel off. With four hours to go, it jammed up for the last time and they simply could not get the left rear tire off of their Lola B2K/40-Nissan. As a result, they had to drive the final four hours on the same left rear tire.
Back then, the LMP2 class was not particularly strong. Just finishing at Sebring was an accomplishment. They finished 16th overall and won the class by 16 laps while also dealing with transmission issues.
Unlike the Miracle Motorsports team, Jones’ pit crew was able to finally get the wheel off after what had to be a half-dozen pit stops. They used the air wrenches, a massive torque wrench, cutting tools and pretty much everything they could think of. Jamie Little got some good quotes from James Houk, Jones’ tire carrier, about the whole situation.
For Sunday, FOX Sports 1 had Jamie McMurray in the broadcast booth alongside Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer. The result was a bit of a mish-mash. It seems like McMurray wanted to be able to contribute as best as he could, but that Bowyer might have gotten in the way of him doing so. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t intentional on Bowyer’s part, but it appeared to me that they were working on different wavelengths.
As a result, Bowyer and McMurray together in a booth doesn’t really work. That said, I believe that McMurray would work well with Joy alone, or with a different analyst. McMurray is a generally low-key commentator. He’s not going to be the really flashy guy out there. He’s going to get in there, say his piece and contribute what he can, then get out and let Joy continue his play-by-play. As we all know, Bowyer is not that guy. He’s Mr. Bouncy Bouncy.
Doing the studio work for FOX Sports 1 over the past couple of years has made McMurray quite a bit more comfortable on television. I think he could do a lot more on television if he wanted to.
Racing-wise, how the race was to watch depended on where you were. Kyle Busch commented via radio after stage one that he found it very hard to pass since you had to run up high beyond the first few laps into the run. The broadcast did a decent job in finding battles on-track, but you could tell that the frustration was creeping in due to the tire failures.
The end of the race was actually quite exciting since Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson were clearly going for it. Honestly, you’re starting to see some of the old Larson coming out from when he was still driving for Chip Ganassi. He’d get excited late in races and hit the wall a bunch of times to take himself out of contention.
The action was quite fierce out there and had the battle for the lead gone on much further, Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin could have stolen the victory. I wish more fans were at Kansas Speedway to watch these battles as the grandstands sadly appeared to be pretty bare on the broadcasts (although I wasn’t there, so I can’t vouch).
With the cautions, the race ran right up against the 210-minute limit. Post-race coverage was rather brief as a result. Viewers got interviews with Kyle Busch, Larson and winning car owner Hamlin (barely). The broadcast was over and viewers shifted to NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series coverage from Virginia Motorsports Park before Kurt was even out of the car in victory lane.
Post-race wise, this was pretty bare bones. I’d like to see more post-race coverage. Perhaps this could be done on a combination of FOXSports.com and the FOX Sports app, similar to what INDYCAR does with post-race shows on Peacock. Unlike NBC, FOX doesn’t have a general entertainment app at its disposal since Disney bought FOX recently. Hulu is the closest thing, but that’s tied to ESPN.
There were a fair number of stories that couldn’t get covered since FOX Sports 1 left Kansas within 10 minutes of the checkered flag. I feel that FOX Sports needs to do a little better job at covering the stories, but I believe it’s cut its on-site presence down enough (remember, it’s been using only two pit reporters for Cup races much of the season) that it would be difficult to pull off.
The broadcast ended up rather frustrating to watch due to the tire failures. This is something that NASCAR has to figure out because it’s hurting the product. If that means mandating minimum tire pressures, which I believe it’s done in the past at times, then do it.
I don’t think I’d want to see Bowyer and McMurray working together in the booth again based on what we saw Sunday. It was a mess, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault that it was a mess. Both men bring different things to a broadcast. They both have their place, but they don’t mesh.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is All-Star Weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. We’ll be back in the land of ridiculously convoluted stuff. Being able to properly explain this shenaniganry will be key.
Cup teams will be joined by the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The NTT IndyCar Series will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, practicing and qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. The coverage there starts on Peacock today. Formula 1 will be back in action at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona in Spain, while SRO America will make its first visit to NOLA Motorsports Park. TV listings can be found here.
We will provide critiques of the action from Texas in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex, we currently plan to cover both the Camping World Truck Series Heart of America 200 and the ARCA Menards Series Dutch Boy 150 in separate columns.
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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.