Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC and IndyCar Have Fun in Texas

This week, we’re going to switch things up. I spent this past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway covering both the NTT IndyCar Series PPG 375 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series SpeedyCash.com 250 for Frontstretch along with Mike Knapp and Stephen Stumpf. Let’s just say that this weekend had everything.

This week, we’re going to take a look at Sunday’s broadcast of the PPG 375 and see how it plays in relation to how the race was live at the track. By all indications, Sunday’s race was the best IndyCar race at Texas in years. In regard to Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond Raceway, I’ll have thoughts on that broadcast later this week.

See also
The Big 6: Questions Answered After Kyle Larson Wins & William Byron Spins in Richmond

The forecast for the PPG 375 was rather grim. I initially thought that there were going to be rain delays. That did not turn out to be the case. Regardless, IndyCar announced two hours before the race that the command would be moved up to 12:01 p.m. ET, 14 minutes earlier than originally planned.

Did it eventually rain at Texas Sunday? Yes, but it came nearly two hours after the race ended. Not long after the checkered flag flew, the whole Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was put under a tornado watch.

Since the start was moved up, Leigh Diffey introduced the race broadcast, then they went right to the command to start the engines. Got to be honest with you. Not used to major races starting at 11 a.m. local time.

Recently, there’s been issues with FOX’s NASCAR Cup Series coverage in reacting to, really, anything. That was not a problem Sunday at Texas. Granted, there were only a couple of moments, but they were quick to react to them.

The best example of this would be the Graham RahalDevlin DeFrancesco crash. The booth was talking about the battle at the front, then you had a quick cut to the wreck.

You also had some interesting commentary. For example, Kyle Kirkwood and Alexander Rossi collided on pit road during the first caution.

There was a significant amount of time given to James Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell explaining the situation and why Kirkwood was really in the wrong here. Essentially, he shouldn’t have tried to duck into his pit from the far outside. Bell also thought that Kirkwood probably wouldn’t have even made it into his stall had he not had contact with Rossi.

What was the result of this? Rossi ended up with a bent steering arm and lost six laps in the pits, while Kirkwood dropped to the rear of the field, but was able to continue. IndyCar officials also determined that Rossi’s team was responsible for the contact via an unsafe release. As a result, he had to serve a drive-through penalty.

The reaction in the media center when that was announced (maybe a minute or so before it was noted on the broadcast) was complete confusion. Essentially the same that you saw on NBC, especially given the explanation. I wish IndyCar would have explained its reason to either NBC or the gathered media as to what its reasoning for the call was.

The biggest story on Sunday was the on-track product. It was excellent to watch in person and on TV. The booth was excitable calling the side-by-side action, something that has really been lacking at Texas since the track was repaved.

Entering the race, IndyCar made slight aerodynamic adjustments to the package. Unfortunately, the potential weather prevented NBC from giving time to that before the race. To make a long story short, the cars ran with a little more downforce than last year.

There is a stigma that putting more downforce onto the cars would create a pack race. Ed Carpenter more or less addressed it Friday during a bullpen session in victory lane. He thought that the fears of pack racing with the package on the cars Sunday were more or less baseless. He wasn’t concerned in the least.

Also of note, no one in the booth has any current ties to the teams. This is often an issue on NASCAR broadcasts as one of the commentators either outright owns a team, or still drives for someone that’s fielding a team in the race.

The middle segment of the race was when the sun was at its fiercest. The broadcast noted that it was 74 degrees outside, but it seemed quite a bit warmer than that.

This portion of the race was when Pato O’Ward ran away from the field, amazing pretty much everyone around. It is quite rare that someone could lap the field into the top five, but that is what O’Ward pulled off.

Even with this level of butt kicking going on, NBC was still looking for additional battles on track to show the viewers. For instance, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou were in a fierce battle for fourth shortly before O’Ward lapped them. Palou and Romain Grosjean actually had a nice battle for third after they had been lapped as well.

You could argue that Felix Rosenqvist crashing really opened things up. At the time, O’Ward and Josef Newgarden were the only drivers on the lead lap.

Post-race coverage was decent. Viewers got interviews with the top four finishers (Newgarden, O’Ward, Palou and David Malukas), along with a check of the unofficial results. We also heard from Grosjean, who crashed on the penultimate lap, causing the race to end under yellow.

See also
David Malukas Fights Changeable Handling to Finish 4th in Texas

Overall, this was a very enjoyable race to watch in person and on TV. The booth of Bell, Diffey and Hinchcliffe seems to work quite well together. I can tell you that Diffey brings a lot to a broadcast, more than just enthusiasm (which he has in bunches).

There was coverage of stories throughout the field, from O’Ward’s stomping to Rahal Lanigan Letterman Racing’s complete nightmare of a day. That said, there are two things I wished that I had. One would be slightly better coverage of the DeFrancesco-Rahal crash. The booth thought that DeFrancesco had hit the wall exiting turn 2 to cause the incident, but we have no proof and they never talked to DeFrancesco on-air.

Another would have been to move away from the front of the field a little more often, especially when O’Ward was stomping everyone. The action was fast and furious, but you also had 28 cars out there, not six or so.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will do battle in the clay at Bristol Motor Speedway. The chances of shenanigans are quite high. TV listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Truck races from the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Annex will cover the action from Richmond.

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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Christopher

I must have seen an entirely different broadcast. The one I saw was a typically horrible NBC Indycar sh*tshow.

janice

i say that all the time about cup races.

DoninAjax

You have that confused with the example of Brian’s product! It was the typical attempt at a movie to be an Oscar submission under the “Comedy” heading.

Dawg

I have to say I didn’t watch the Indy Car race, but I did watch the Truck race. It looked to me like the crowd for it might have been around 2K if you rounded up.
I’ve watched Indy Car races there in the past, & it’s evident that fan support is woefully lacking.
I can’t figure out why Indy Car hasn’t switched to COTA, where they could put on a better, & for the drivers, a safer show. They probably wouldn’t max out the place gate wise. But it would have to be much better that TMS.

DoninAjax

I set my recorder to start the IndyCar race at 12:30 and when I started to watch they were already at lap 54. Now I know why.

Bill B

RE: The 11AM start time, it would be awesome if NASCAR races started that early.

In some ways the 3:30+ start time is my biggest gripe with NASCAR. I mean, there are lots of things I complain about, but what happens on the track is what it is. If I chose to watch then I know what to expect, but that 3:30 start time really screws up what I want my Sunday to be. If they can’t start earlier, I’d prefer they start it after 6PM on Sunday rather than 3:30

DoninAjax

The only NA$CAR events that that start at 3:30 are Eastern times. The West coast telecasts of the events start at 12:30 local time which is 3:30 in the East. Imagine that! NA$CAR doesn’t care about the fans at the track getting home at a decent time by making them endure an extra 3 hours of nothing worth watching. The Indy 500 used to start at exactly 11:00 local or 12 Eastern. The Daytona 500 used to get the green flag at 12:45. The telecast started at 12:40. What a concept!

Kurt Smith

It’s like living on the east coast and having a favorite football team on the west coast.

wildcats2016

If they would start the races at 1 p.m. ET, that would still be 10 a.m. PT. I agree with Bill B that 3:30 just messes up the day. If the weather is nice, well I have things to do outside rather than watch the race.

Bill B

I just want to be able to fix and eat dinner without having to miss the race.

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