Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Innovates In Atlanta, But Still Has Some Fixable Issues

Before we even get into the critique, I’ll state that I am not a fan of the reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway. I have no idea why the dudes running the facility thought this redesign was a good idea. The place needed a repave badly, but they didn’t need to go about it this way. Also, it seems like they didn’t do a good job as the place is bumpy as heck.

Superspeedway-style races are some of the easier events to cover for TV partners. Having everyone bunched up together means that you don’t have to deviate all that much from your general grandmaster plan to cover the event.

That said, there really wasn’t that much action at the front of the field early on Sunday. Joey Logano seemed to have the pack wrapped around his finger. Don’t be shy. Feel free to drop back and show all of the action since the pack was pretty rarely fully single-file Sunday.

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Up to Speed: Did a Lack of Practice Hurt Atlanta Racing?

I understand that FOX wants to make as much use of Larry McReynolds on the broadcasts as they can. I still believe that the best way to go about doing that is to have him at the track every weekend, but I don’t have control over FOX’s personnel moves. What they really shouldn’t be doing is having full-screen virtual cutaway car segments during green-flag racing. If you’re going to do that as a full-screen piece, do it under yellow. If not, make it a split-screen. I feel like viewers shouldn’t miss any action because of that.

Sunday brought a counteraction to the mess from back at Daytona International Speedway last month. Aric Almirola’s cut tire that caused him to crash out of the race resulted in FOX cutting out of the full-screen commercial to show the wreck. When this happened, I thought, “Oh man! They did it.” The shock of the move is the same now that it was when they did it for the Big One in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Speaking of the ongoing Mike Joy issues, he seemed to welcome people to contact him during Sunday’s broadcast. That, in and of itself, is not necessarily new with Joy. He’s always been willing to talk to fans about the broadcasts, all the way back to the news group days. Social media has, if anything, made him more reachable. Heck, he’s actually read Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch over the years. I cannot say whether he still does or not, but I can tell you that I’ve gotten e-mails from Joy in the past based on columns that I’ve written. And no, he wasn’t being a jerk about anything I wrote.

Thing is, he angered a bunch of people Sunday with his comments about “keyboard warriors.” That resulted in a stream of haters ranting about Joy which resulted in him trending on Twitter during the race. Ouch.

At this point, Joy appears to be rather annoyed with some of the mentions that he gets from some of the dumber people out there. That said, Joy doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy to just block people he doesn’t agree with. Regardless, as we’ve seen over the past few years, getting dragged on a regular basis on social media can take a toll on the toughest people.

Toward the end of the race, FOX did something interesting. On the final lap of the race, they added a shot of the caution lights to the lower right corner of the screen.

This will apparently be a permanent move just in case a caution flies since a caution on the last lap of the race ends the festivities right then and there. I actually didn’t even notice at first until I went back and saw it again. In the past, we’ve seen replays with a camera on the lights linked up to it, but never live. I think this is a good move. It’s not intrusive and serves an objective purpose. There is really no downside here.

It would have been even better if NBC Sports had something like this Thursday afternoon during the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 in Sebring. Since that race doesn’t air on regular television until Saturday morning, there’s a good chance that you didn’t see that the officials’ decision regarding when a caution came out with 10 minutes to go likely determined the TCR class winner.

Given how wreck-strewn both Atlanta races were last year, FOX allotted a substantial slot for the race. With only five cautions, the race ended quite early. Viewers got interviews with everyone that finished in the top 10 except for Erik Jones (given his final lap or two, I don’t really get this omission). There was a full check of the unofficial results, which I cannot recall the last time that happened. No points check, though. It seems like everyone is so concerned with the playoffs these days that it literally doesn’t matter.

There was also plenty of post-race analysis from back in Charlotte at the FOX Sports studio. Viewers more or less got spoiled here since the race ended with 45 minutes left in the timeslot, something that almost never happens.

One of the more noticeable things FOX did on NASCAR RaceDay was to chronicle a group of African-American race fans that met on a Facebook group that were in Atlanta last weekend for their first group outing.

As you’re likely aware, NASCAR has been trying to expand its fanbase in recent years. It cannot simply cater to the same group of people that have followed the sport since 1960. NASCAR’s diversity efforts have probably had the most visible impact on pit crews, but the sport is far more diverse today than it was when I first went to a race in 1995.

They talk quite a bit about representation in the piece. I can definitely understand the notion that it helps people feel more comfortable in a place like a NASCAR race to see someone like you there as a fan or participant as opposed to something like security. If they can show that a NASCAR race is a safe place for minority race fans to go to, I’m all for it.

The days of Charles Barkley refusing to go to Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta because he felt that he wasn’t welcome there are hopefully over. The context here is that Barkley talks about this in his 2005 book, Who’s Afraid Of A Large Black Man?: Race, Power, Fame, Identity, and Why Everyone Should Read My Book. Apparently, he tried going to races at those two tracks (the closest ones to where he’s from) and saw an array of Confederate battle flags as far as the eye could see. Knowing that Barkley is originally from Leeds, Ala. (just outside of Birmingham), that means “Do Not Enter” to him. NASCAR banning the flag in 2020 is helping that, despite the enforcement of the ban being spotty at times (I can personally attest to seeing the flag at Talladega in 2021 being displayed in campsites).

From what I can see, the number of black race fans seems to be growing. Last year at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, I’d say that roughly 15-20% of the fans in the stands were African-American. I’d never been to a race like that.

Problem is, I’m not really that person. I’m the person that always grew up as the “other.”

When I started elementary school in 1989, I was the only African-American kid in the school. I don’t recall seeing any black people at my first NASCAR race in 1995 (Pocono Raceway). I think I saw exactly one black man at my second Cup race in 1998. That was at Watkins Glen International. I recall him wearing a Jeff Gordon t-shirt. That man definitely went home that day in a good mood.

The point here is that I think I’m a little more used to being in environments where I’m different than everyone else than the people depicted in the piece. That doesn’t minimize their opinions in any way.

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Waid's World: How Ricky Rudd Went from a Babyface to 1 Tough Competitor

Finally, I generally don’t like to talk about renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner in this column. It takes away from other things that I do need to cover. However, Sunday’s rendition was something else.

Woof. That’s not great. I think Blanco Brown might have gotten some boos for that.

That is all for this week. Next weekend, NASCAR has a tripleheader scheduled at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Tex. 225 kilometers for the Trucks, 250 for the Xfinity Series and 375 for Cup teams. Also, no stage breaks. Should be fun. TV listings can be found here.

Also of note, Kurt Busch will be in the booth Sunday. That should be interesting. He’ll be joined by Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner. Steiner is a strange choice here. It strikes me as FOX trying to cash in on Drive To Survive since Steiner is such a popular figure on there with his potty mouth. Obviously, he’s not going to be cussing like a sailor Sunday on FOX, but I want to see what Steiner could bring to the broadcast.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from COTA here at Frontstretch next week. In the Critic’s Annex, we’ll have a look at Saturday’s Fr8 208

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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janice

personally, they need to do away with the gridwalk. it’s outlived it’s usefulness.

this is 2023, i did not understand why the prerace piece on the black fans. to me it just looked like what you see at Atlanta Falcons tailgating on sundays in the fall during football seasons. groups getting together and having a good time. all kinds of fan groups meet up at the tracks on raceday. FANS, period! i’d possibly like to propose a fan group of those individuals old enough to remember what racing was really like, but are now hampered by the escalated cost to attend something that was once held in reverence.

the national anthem was horrible. i just don’t get it. sing it as it’s written, again reverence and respect.

i’m still trying to figure out where they hid the heater gun for the pre-race show on sunday. atlanta was brutal cold and windy. ironically drivers who they had there shed their outer heavy coats (except brad who left his gloves on) to do the tv bit.

Kurt Smith

“What they really shouldn’t be doing is having full-screen virtual cutaway car segments during green-flag racing. If you’re going to do that as a full-screen piece, do it under yellow. If not, make it a split-screen. I feel like viewers shouldn’t miss any action because of that.”

I for one am always grateful that Fox takes the time to cut away from the race I tuned in to see, and explain the draft to me on a full screen. Because honestly I didn’t quite grasp it the last 800 times they explained it to me.

John

Because the segment isn’t for diehards. It’s for the casual race fan tuning in.

DoninAjax

Tonight is the final game of the actual “World Series”. Should be something special!

janice

when i came across this a week or so ago i didn’t know what it was. i was told they do this every year. first i’ve heard of it.

Kevin in SoCal

Every four years.

Bill B

I didn’t notice that “green/yellow light status bar” at the bottom of the screen either, but I like it as long as it is truly synced with the actual track lights. It should give fans a chance to see who is/was leading when the caution light is flipped. In theory it should be a great addition, we’ll see how it goes in reality.

Bill H

In 1998 I returned to Talladega with a group from Tucson AZ after having moved there a few years earlier. I had persuaded a group of guys to travel with me, none of whom had ever been to a Cup race. We camped at the speedway from Friday night and had a great time. One of the group was a black guy, and he was made thoroughly welcome by everyone we encountered.

Christopher

At the beginning of the Cup broadcast, Mike Joy actually called it the Nextel Cup Series. You could see the bewilderment on the faces of Stewart and Boyer, then they cut to commercial but it was never addressed or corrected. Joy is really past his sell-by date.

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