Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Atlanta Brings Mediocre Broadcast, Too Much Chase Elliott

Ever since Atlanta Motor Speedway was reconfigured last year, covering an event on the 1.54-mile quad-oval has become a much different game. Everyone is much closer together and the chances for shenanigans are substantially higher. Naturally, this will change how an Atlanta race is covered.

Before I get started, I want to show you a ridiculous moment from Sunday (July 10) at Monza.

This crash put Henrique Chaves out of Sunday’s FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Monza when he suffered an apparent brake failure entering the Variante della Roggia. This is bonkers. It shouldn’t happen. Now, I don’t know what this would have looked like had Chaves not hit the sausage, but it wouldn’t have looked like that.

With Indianapolis Motor Speedway coming up in a couple of weeks and the complete lunacy that happened during the NASCAR Cup Series race there last year fresh in my mind, I intend to write an article about this stuff for later this week. You might see it this weekend while I’m at Lime Rock Park, a place that does not have sausage curbs to stop people from cutting the course because they use grass prodigiously.

Bad weather in Atlanta meant that there was no on-track action for Cup teams prior to the race. As a result, it ended up being a lot like a 2020 race day. Not great.

See also
The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2022 Quaker State 400

The big feature prior to the race was Kyle Petty sitting down with his father Richard and Jeff Gordon to discuss the 1992 Hooters 500, the only race in which the two ever raced against each other. As most of you know, this race was a big deal at the time. Petty’s final start was probably the second biggest story of the day, while Gordon debuting was the third story at best.

Now, a shortened version of this clip aired on Countdown to Green. I found it to be a pretty interesting thing. Gordon driving a Chevrolet was a real coup at the time since he was a Ford development driver.

Basically, what you have is the two legendary drivers reminiscing about their 1992 seasons in the clip above. In what aired Sunday, it was just about the one race. Honestly, I did like this interview. Do I think Kyle got more out of Richard because he’s Richard’s son? I don’t know. I don’t think so.

Prior to the race, Rick Allen made reference to Aric Almirola apparently thinking about not retiring at the end of the season. This was the first I’d heard of it and it seemed to come out of thin air. It was also never paid off in any way during the broadcast. I was confused.

Race broadcasts at superspeedways are generally easier to cover because the field doesn’t really spread out as much. For the most part, this was the case. With a dozen yellows, the field didn’t really spread out at all, unlike Saturday’s race. You always had a decent idea of where people were.

That said, the pylon didn’t always cooperate. As you’re likely aware, NBC Sports’ scoring pylon generally shows the top 20 drivers in the running order. The bottom half can revolve through the rest of the field. That revolving didn’t really happen much, so it was a little difficult to figure out where everyone was below 20th. Not swell if you’re not really going to show them.

Rutledge Wood spent Sunday afternoon in Dawsonville, checking out the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame and the infamous Dawsonville Pool Room. I got to be honest, Dawsonville is nowhere near Atlanta Motor Speedway. It’s on the complete other side of the Atlanta Metro from the track. I think I saw someone on Twitter say that it’s a two-hour drive to get to Dawsonville. It’s much closer to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, to be honest.

After Chase Elliott won, we got to see how the siren is started. Apparently, it involves jumper cables and someone’s Saturn. Who knew?

See also
Up to Speed: Make Atlanta Motor Speedway the Regular Season Finale

Truth be told, I considered actually doing something similar to what Rutledge did Sunday back in 2018. I was in Georgia to cover Petit Le Mans and the YellaWood 500 at Talladega was the day after the race (note: this is the case this year as well; I currently plan to do both). Figured that it would be a good idea just to say that I went there. Chose not to. Ended up going to used bookstores and watching the race in my hotel room instead. If you remember that event, it was the one where Stewart-Haas Racing controlled the whole race, grooving it for the aforementioned Almirola. I suppose it was a good decision not to go.

Admittedly, Sunday’s race will probably be remembered best as the race where the majority of the field turned on Ross Chastain. Sunday saw accidental contact spark a multi-car crash in turn 2 involving Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell. He ticked off Almirola, who apparently doesn’t want to see him at Food Lion, a grocery store chain. Later on, he slid up the track and took out Denny Hamlin … again. Our own Brad Harrison shot Hamlin’s post-race media scrum on Sunday.

He’s apparently reached his peak. What that means going forward is anyone’s guess. Does that mean that he’ll interrupt Chastain’s victory donuts like he did to Alex Bowman at Martinsville Speedway last fall the next time he wins? I don’t know. Will he run blocker on him like he did at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway last month? Perhaps. Would he pull a Matt Kenseth on him? Doubtful, since Hamlin’s smart enough to know that actions like that will get him suspended.

This goes for the broadcasters as well. They have a lot of respect for Chastain’s aggression and his talent behind the wheel, but the incidents are just happening too often. There is a high probability of shenanigans being inflicted on him at some point later this season. On NBC Sports’ part, they’re under the opinion that Chastain needs to calm down a little bit and not take so many chances. It’s not to the point of unjustifiable risk (something that you can be suspended for in IMSA), but he’s clearly ticking people off.

Post-race coverage was OK. Viewers got a few post-race interviews, including one with Corey LaJoie, who nearly stole the race and could have turned the playoffs upside down had he managed the win and a few more good performances. Compared to the last couple of races, there wasn’t that much available. Viewers didn’t even get quotes from Austin Cindric, who finished third.

Overall, this was a pretty average race broadcast. The weather issues took away a lot of what could have been used to preview the race, then the impending weather cut it down even more. I really liked the Petty-Gordon piece. The Rutledge stuff in Dawsonville struck me as a bit unnecessary and made the broadcast look too pro-Elliott. Heck, if you want to show off the race’s home market, do something in Atlanta, which is much closer to the track than Dawsonville. Rut’s CityView strikes me as a hit-or-miss segment depending on the week. This was a miss.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Cup and Xfinity series will travel to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for their one and only visit to New England this year. The Whelen Modified Tour will also be on the card. Meanwhile, the NTT IndyCar Series returns to Exhibition Place in Toronto for the first time in three years in a race that is exclusive to Peacock.  IMSA will be at Lime Rock Park as well. TV listings are here.

We will provide critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from New Hampshire in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. It will also be a special column. The Critic’s Annex will cover Saturday’s ALSCO Uniforms 250 from Atlanta.

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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DoninAjax

Why don’t you mention Hamlin hitting Chastain in the left rear on lap 25 to move him out of the way? It seems Hamlin believes he’s entitled to do it but no one can return the favour. Perfect attitude for Reverend Joe drivers, with the possible exception of Bell.

Iceman202290

I saw it differently. Saw Ross wash up the hill, which he did several times this race. Hamlin filled the hole as Ross lifted and came back down. I would expect Ross or anyone else to make the same move on anyone as Denny did there. He again washed up the track later on but chose not to lift and come back down this time and just turned Denny. These are all mental errors by Ross and not what we have grown accustomed to over the last few decades from cup quality talent. But you are going to get raced the way you race and everyone knows Ross isnt lifting. So expect others to race similarly around him the rest of his career until he proves he can reign it in.

DoninAjax

The view from Hamlin’s car showed him tapping the right rear of Chastain’s car on lap 25.

WJW Motorsports

Yes – only a nice save and Bowman alertly giving him extra room saved the field from the first big one. Denny was definitely aware who was driving that car.

Sally Baker

One would thin that, with the field being so bunched up, they would cover more than the front runners easily. Apparently not. From the majority of the coverage, I only saw 15 or 20 cars on the track all day. Cory LaJoy wasn’t even mentioned until the last 30 laps or so. Not informing viewers of how drivers NOT in the very front are running is taking away from the ability to appreciate how the race unfolds. One assumes that Cory didn’t just magically appear in the top 10 at the end of the race?

johndawgchapman

To follow the race & be able to keep up with the entire field. I always go to NASCAR.com & click on the Live Leader Board. Then I can scroll through the entire field & know where everyone is running. McDowell was running a very good race until he was caught up in a late race wreck. But from the broadcast booth you wouldn’t have known it.

Bill B

I know that FOX broadcasts have their issues but I have never had to mute the TV so often as I did Sunday. Must the guys in the booth continually yell at us? I get it when something monumental happens on track but it seems they are always yelling. Junior and Burton are the worst. Turning the volume real low helps a little, The only time I have to mute FOX is when Michael Waltrip speaks.

DoninAjax

If a network ever brings back an old TV show they have two candidates to choose as the new Screetch.

Wrs

Spot on! The shrill screeching from those 2 is grating. I will watch the next race on mute and listen to Mrn/Prn.

Kathleen Kulesza

I like NBC more than Fox because I can’t stand the Waltrips. I’ve never seen a network fawn over a driver as much as NBC fawns over Chase Elliott. Jeff Gordon didn’t receive that treatment when he raced at Sonoma or Tony Stewart at the Brickyard.

Racer919

Spot on, junior may be knowledgeable but his voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Deborah Sharp

Burton is even worse with the both and throw in Steve it’s unbearable to listen but nbc has been have fans complaining about them since they put the 3 who think of themselves as experts and I thought surely after last year’s complaints they would get rid of burton but then nbc is the worst network ever and that goes for all their programming

Kira

You got the yelling 100% right. At least Burton provides relevant commentary, unlike Jr’s limited vocabulary of yelling “slide job” and “wreck wreck”. I’d rather listen to Mikey and even DW than Jr.

Ken

I view all the Rutledge stuff as annoying, unnecessary fluff that just interrupts me from seeing what I tuned in for…the race. I’ve never figured out any good reason for any of his appearances on broadcasts. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but his contributions to a race broadcast are just stupid. Dear networks…just show me the dang race. i don’t care about all the silly features and special interest stuff.

Bill B

I’ve always wondered who the hell is he and where the hell did he come from. Did he use to drive in another series? Was someone in his family a bigwig at NASCAR or one of the teams or networks? What were his credentials to become involved in the NASCAR broadcasts? or Who the hell did he sleep with to get that job?

Mike

Eject Burton from the booth! My gosh he has to be the most annoying commentator of all time. He never shuts up, his voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard and he doesn’t know what the heck he is even blathering about most of the time.

johndawgchapman

For me, Rutledge Wood is nowhere close to the annoyance level of anyone named Waltrip. But he doesn’t bring much to the table.
I spent way too much of my high school time walking around a snooker table in a pool, hall that could have been the setting for the Hustler. The Dawsonville pool hall looks more like a cafe, with a pool table, than a pool hall.

Racer919

Went there a couple of weeks ago, it’s just an old,small town Cafe with a pool table and walls papered with Elliott memorabilia. Okay for me because Bill was always my favorite driver. Good burger and friendly folks.

Pat S

McDowell came back from 3 laps down to finish 15th..no mention of that either. Im sure theres alot more of that kind of stuff. I agree with you they didnt really cycle through the lower half of the field that much on the scoring pylon. Also too much Chase Elliot. A nice piece on Spire and that their in the old Alan Kulwicki shop etc.. would be nice for the pre race next week.

DoninAjax

I’m sure his name, along with many others, was never brought up in the morning meeting when they decided who to show. Butthead, though, was chosen to kill time so they didn’t have to show what was happening on the track to the chosen ones.

gbvette

Sometimes I find it hard to tell who’s talking, Jr or Burton, their voices often come off sounding similar. I actually don’t think Jr does a bad job, he can explain why something happens, and has a good knowledge of the history of the sport. Burton just seems to talk to much, without saying a lot.

I don’t often get around to watching ARCA races, but I did watch Saturday’s race from Mid Ohio. I don’t know if Jamie Little is new to the broadcast booth (I don’t recall hearing her broadcast a race before), but I thought she was really bad as an announcer. I’m sure the weather and drying track didn’t make it the easiest race to cover, but she seemed to be confused by everything happening in the race. The worse moment was when Sammy Smith (I think it was him) spun and came in to switch from wet to dry rubber. She started screaming about him having a problem, till Parsons calmed her down and explained he was just changing tires.

Mike

Yep, Jr’s voice is a little annoying at times but his knowledge more than makes up for it. Burton is just flat out annoying in every way.

Annie

This article was very accurate. The first 20 cars are all they focus on. Alex Bowman was running good until his tire blew then who knows what happened to him after that. No one said anything about him was he still in race was he out NOTHING! I like Chase Elliott but most races revolve around him. I think Fox does a better job they keep you up to date on all the drivers.

Charlie

I was a Bill Elliott fan, and I feel sorry for his son. He is a good driver and races well, but drives for a convicted, though pardoned Federal felon ($1 million to the Clinton Library and three wrecked cars by soon-to-be governor Mike Easley later), so it’s not so easy.
While Rick Allen is outstanding, LeTart, and Junior are Hendrick shills, period. As long as you know this going in, I can tolerate it. I would like to see Clint Boyer and Tony Stewart teamed with Allen. That would be A list.
Poor Jeff Burton proves he still is “captain obvious.”
I do like the track configuration.

HOWEVER, when I think of Dawsonville, I think of the movie Deliverance.

Kira

The few races that had Bowyer and Stewart this year were great. Bowyer really grew on me this season, too bad they are only on Fox. My dream commentator team would be Mike Joy, Bowyer, Stewart, and Allan.

Charlie

I like that! Great suggestion

DoninAjax

My dream team would be a production team that knows how to televise a race.

Bill B

My dream team would be MRN for audio properly synched to the video broadcasts and send the rest of them home.

Echo

Pardoned – move on. Dawsonville and Deliverance !!!! Someone needs to get out more.

Don Costello

NBC sucks covering racing. Just horrible!!! Cant do instant replays. Miss how most wrecks or spins get started…Cant cover all the cars on the track…Burton has to go period!!! Dale Jr needs a zanex before a race but at least he knows what he’s yelling about. Cant record race on NBC because USA network might end up finishing the race. Fx has the best of everything when it comes to any kind of motor racing

T Williams

So glad to see comments. Thought I was only one who cringe when Burton and Jr scream and shout. Also new female pit announcer screams like the world is ending. So upsetting, can’t and don’t enjoy broadcast. Need to continually mute or lower volume, missing most of broadcast. They all should take lessons from FOX announcers. It was bad last year but this year is excruciating painful. Please stop shouting!

Mike Kalasnik

Anyone remember the Dale Jr and Danica coverage from years past? Thats what it felt like.

Greg

Your analysis of the race coverage was spot on. It was unfortunate that NBC ignored half of the field during the race. I nearly forgot that Lagano was even racing until he became airborne. Fox does a much better job with their coverage. Hopefully NBC can kick it up a notch.

Jeremy

I’ve noticed it does seem like Jr and Burton are yelling a lot when they broadcast, and I wonder why? Does the booth need more sound-proofing to quiet it down in there so they can talk in a reasonable voice? I’ve listened to Jr’s podcast, and he’s fine to listen to when he’s not yelling, assume the same of Burton (be glad it’s Jeff in there and not Ward! lol ). Racetracks are a loud environment, so I assume that is the root cause?

Bill B

The FOX guys also had a race at Atlanta and I don’t remember having to mute that day (well except when Michael Waltrip spoke).

Chief

nascar has done a great job building chevrolet a winning racecar !

CC

I’ve been to Atlanta many times. Watched Kowicky win his championship that year. The new track configuration sucks. We don’t need anymore speedway racing. Very boring. The new cars suck too! Looks like IMSA cars out there! Junior and Jeff have terrible voices forbroadcasting. Sound like a couple of hicks from the sticks. The other Rick is great with his clear deep voice. Overall NBC sucks!

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