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.
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?
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.
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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.
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