Memorial Day weekend means a lot of things to people. Generally speaking, it’s observed as a way to give thanks to those who died fighting for the United States. The vast majority of NASCAR RaceDay on both FOX and FOX Sports 1 catered to this aspect of the holiday.
To others, it’s an excuse to have a barbecue. For the racing community, it’s one of the biggest weekends of the year. Sunday was a ridiculous day with the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Collectively, these broadcasts (race broadcasts, pre-race and post-race) were on for more than 16 hours straight from 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning to after midnight.
Sunday night’s 413-lap race ended up being substantially more competitive than last year’s race, run with the high-downforce package. There were 725 more passes under green this year as compared to last year. Lead changes were up to 31 from 23 and the whole race was much more fun to watch. It was also 75 minutes longer.
For Sunday night’s race, Jamie McMurray was back in the booth alongside Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer. As compared to his last booth appearance in Kansas two weeks ago, I felt this time went better for him.
Back then, I wrote that McMurray seemed to have a little trouble fitting in. In the two weeks since, it appears that the two of them bounced things off of each other so that they could work together a little better. The result was lively commentary. Based on Sunday’s broadcast, if FOX were to add McMurray to the booth full-time in 2023 (Note: I’ve heard nothing along these lines), I think that it could actually work well.
FOX’s broadcast brought viewers quite a bit of side-by-side racing. This was great to watch and I enjoyed myself. However, the wrecking (especially early on) meant that it took so long to reach a conclusion that I fear some fans may have tuned out.
I did have some issues with the broadcast. The whole Ones to Watch segment doesn’t really do much for me. My main issue is that it more or less takes the focus off the race itself. During this segment, Ross Chastain was able to overtake Tyler Reddick for the lead of the race and FOX missed it live while Joy was talking about Cole Custer. I understand that there is a certain schedule to adhere to, but there are things that take precedence. I feel like a fight for the lead is a bit more important than some sponsored segment.
Also of note, there were an unusual number of cautions that flew Sunday night during commercial breaks. Six of them, to be exact. This seems like bad luck more than anything.
That said, of the six yellows that flew during commercials, five were due to spins. The first was when Josh Bilicki spun on lap 33. Watching the broadcast, viewers had no real idea as to what happened. We just knew that Bilicki had an incident and that it put him out of the race. After the race, Bilicki tweeted about it.
Blew a left rear and got the wall hard. Absolutely hate it for the @SpireMotorsport @zeigler_racing team. They worked so hard the last few days. Had a good car and felt this was a good opportunity for us to capitalize on a grueling race.
— Josh Bilicki (@joshbilicki) May 29, 2022
That sounds pretty substantial. If that’s what happened, it really stinks that FOX apparently has no footage of it. I would have wanted to see that if they had anything.
During the race, tires were once again an issue. It’s a lot of the same issues that we’ve seen this year at intermediate tracks, most notably Kansas. This is why everyone pitted for four tires just 20 laps into the race during the first yellow. Even at that point, drivers had substantial wear on their left rear tires. Jamie Little showed viewers some of that wear, which seemed excessive for 18 laps of green-flag racing. It’s an extension of recent issues surrounding air pressure and rear camber.
Prior to the race weekend, Goodyear put out recommendations for a minimum of 22 pounds of air pressure in the left-rear tire, then went out of their way to state that their recommendations are not just for show. That’s rare, chaps. Goodyear appears to be sick of being a whipping boy for the team’s issues.
Granted, this wasn’t the best weekend for Goodyear in general. These days, their reach is bigger since they own the Dunlop brand and have re-branded a lot of Dunlop’s racing tires in Europe as Goodyears. Both races of the FIA World Touring Car Cup, scheduled for Saturday on the Nordschliefe prior to the 50th Annual ADAC TotalEnergies 24h Nurburgring, were cancelled on safety grounds.
Why? There were a series of tire failures during practice and qualifying on the 15.77-mile circuit, in addition to damaged tires. Eventually, it got to the point where Goodyear and the series could not guarantee that the tires were safe to use. Unlike the issues in NASCAR, this one seemed to be on Goodyear rather than the teams.
While the tire issues did get better as the race continued on, even allowing for some green-flag pit stops, there were still a bunch of failures. Bilicki’s was apparently the first of the them. Corey LaJoie also crashed out due to a tire issue, as did Austin Cindric. Tyler Reddick also cut a tire while running second to bring out the 15th caution.
All through the race, Bowyer would talk about how this race was unlike anything he’d ever seen before. I don’t really agree with this knowing that there have been a number of chaotic Charlotte races in the past. Some of those, Bowyer actually drove in. For example, the levigation races of 2005 were before Bowyer’s time in the Cup Series, but he was already in the then-Busch Series by that point.
I also felt lost in regards to what happened to Bubba Wallace, who was apparently forced to park by NASCAR right before halfway due to failing to reach minimum speed. The background here is that Wallace was involved in the multi-car wreck on lap 192 that was triggered by Ryan Blaney clipping the apron on a restart.
Wallace’s car was not significantly damaged, but his 23XI Racing crew had to make repairs. From what I can tell, he didn’t violate the crash clock. However, you don’t get very long to clear that clock. Given the tire wear, the team opted to drive around at a lower pace so that they wouldn’t have to pit at the stage break.
This was a mistake as NASCAR forced them to park the car at halfway for failing to meet minimum speed. The FOX broadcast never really commented on this whole mess to explain why Wallace was out. Or why Justin Haley dropped out (engine issues, apparently). They need to be more cognizant of those things.
The race Sunday night was scheduled for a 270-minute (4.5 hour) time slot on FOX. This was reached on lap 327 with 73 laps to go in regulation. That was before the red flag due to Chris Buescher’s flip or the two GWCs.
With all of that in play, the race ended at 11:45 p.m., a full 75 minutes beyond the scheduled end of the broadcast. Heck, I didn’t think that this race would exceed the time that the 2019 race that I covered on-site for Frontstretch. Ultimately, it was only seconds shorter than the ridiculous 2005 race. However, it should be stated that there was significantly more time spent under the red flag back in 2005 when a piece of the track came up and punched a hole in Jeff Gordon’s nose.
Despite the fact that it was approaching midnight, there was still quite a bit of post-race coverage. Viewers got interviews with a half-dozen drivers and post-race analysis from the booth and the FOX Sports studio in Charlotte.
Overall, the race was much more exciting to watch as compared to last year. Yes, last year’s race still had 23 lead changes, but it seemed like the majority of them came during pit stops and barely anyone was able to pass Kyle Larson.
Speaking of Larson, he had the looniest of races with everything that could go wrong going wrong in the first 300 miles before coming back to nearly win the race. This was shocking to the booth, but after last year, nothing really surprises me with Larson anymore.
The broadcast did a decent job in bringing the on-track action to viewers. The good stuff wasn’t relegated to the laps immediately after restarts. That said, there were some issues noted above that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. If you don’t have something, explain to the viewers that you don’t have it. If you can take advantage of NASCAR’s people on the ground to get additional footage, by all means do so. An example of this was when Kyle Busch was spun out by Ryan Blaney during the Pocono 350 in 2020, which was not caught by FS1’s cameras.
Assume that everyone has fans. While this isn’t IMSA, where there might be doctors on their weekend off from work driving in Michelin Pilot Challenge, I am personally under the assumption that every driver in the NASCAR Cup Series has fans. Therefore, if something happens to a particular driver, there are people that are going to want to know what happened. If you can do so, you should.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is the first split weekend of the season for NASCAR. The NASCAR Cup Series enters uncharted territory as it descends upon Madison, Ill.’s World Wide Technology Raceway for the first time. They’ll be joined by the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Meanwhile, the NASCAR Xfinity Series enters its own new territory as it travels to Portland International Raceway for the first time, with ARCA Menards Series West as support.
Meanwhile, the NTT IndyCar Series will race at Belle Isle Park for the final time this weekend as the Detroit Grand Prix will move back to downtown Detroit in 2023. They’ll be joined by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s DPi and GTD classes.
I will be at World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend to cover the Cup and Truck races. Despite this, I should be back from the St. Louis area in time to write about the Cup race broadcast from Sunday. That critique will be in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here on Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will be busy this week. No Annex for today given my schedule of dirt racing for Monday night, but it will cover the Indianapolis 500, the ALSCO Uniforms 300 and the North Carolina Educational Lottery 200 later this week.
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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.