Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Are FOX Broadcasts Hurting NASCAR’s Ratings?

1. Was no penalty for Ryan Preece at Bristol Dirt the correct call?

One of the biggest in-race stories from the NASCAR Cup Series’ Easter Sunday (April 9) at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track was the race-long quarrel between Kyle Larson and Ryan Preece.

Larson first squeezed Preece into the outside wall out of turn 4 in the second stage; the contact bent a right rear toe link and ultimately spoiled what was shaping up to be Preece’s best performance of the season.

Preece and the No. 41 team were clearly not happy with how the situation went down, and they threatened retaliation afterward.

After Larson spun on his own in the final stage, the two met again with 76 laps to go. Preece returned the favor and put Larson in the outside wall, and whether it was out of frustration or because the car couldn’t turn, Larson bounced off the No. 41 car heading into turn 1 and spun out. The contact ended his day with a 35th-place finish.

Preece, however, denied intentionally wrecking him after the race and said that he got loose.

While such an incident would normally be a nothingburger when it came to penalties, Denny Hamlin’s penalty (and the upholding of said penalty) for running Ross Chastain into the wall at Phoenix Raceway changed the game.

But there is a difference between promising retaliation and admitting an intentional act because a driver or team threatening retaliation does not always mean that it happens (just ask Martin Truex Jr. about how Joey Logano did in fact win the damn war in 2018).

Judging from what happened in the race, one could conclude that Preece decided to squeeze Larson. But since it didn’t come out of his mouth, the possibility exists that it was, in fact, an accident or a product of hard racing.

Hamlin decided to remove all doubt while Preece did the opposite after the race; no penalty was the right call.

See also
Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Just Doesn't Show the Goods in Bristol

2. Are FOX broadcasts hurting NASCAR’s ratings?

NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary season began with a degree of fanfare and goodwill that started to come undone in race one.

The season-opening Daytona 500 puts more eyeballs on the TV and more butts in the seats than any other NASCAR race out there, but FOX and its coverage of the so-called Commercial 500 were heavily criticized right out of the gate.

To FOX’s credit, they have tried to address the situation. Mike Joy will, on occasion, give a reason for a commercial break (to not miss green flag pit stops, to allow more coverage of the closing laps, etc.) for starters. The network has also implemented a new feature in the form of the race tracker (which gives a timeline of the race with green and yellow colors to denote green-flag laps and cautions) as well.

But while commercials are a necessary evil to any broadcast, what has also drawn ire is the lack of excitement in coverage and race tangibles that are routinely absent.

The broadcast seemingly checking out at the end of the Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when a Larson win was far from guaranteed is one particular example, and it appears that chemistry is lacking on the broadcasts at times.

One of the issues is that the third commentator for FOX has been a revolving door ever since Jeff Gordon departed the booth, and it’s hard to get a rhythm when there is almost a different person each week (the good news is that FOX will finally have another permanent commentator in Kevin Harvick for the start of 2024).

The broadcast at Circuit of the Americas was also a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen, as there were not one, not two but five people in the booth: Joy, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Guenther Steiner and Chase Elliott (via Zoom).

Finally, NASCAR is a sport that requires quick camera work to capture action on track. The entire track can’t be captured in one frame, so the broadcast has to pick and choose what to show; those camera shots are crucial.

And during Sunday’s broadcast at Bristol Dirt, there were several times when Joy and the announcers would announce that a spin, battle or crash happened on track, but the viewers were left waiting several seconds until the camera finally paned to the action, if it did at all. In an event like NASCAR, that’s unacceptable.

A freefall in TV viewership has occurred in addition to the rocky start in coverage. There are always a variety of factors in play for a viewership decline, and while the broadcasts may not be the culprit, they certainly aren’t helping either.

See also
Chase Elliott Returning at Martinsville

3. Will Chase Elliott’s time off give him an advantage over the rest of the field?

It was announced this week that Elliott return to Martinsville Speedway this Sunday (April 16). Elliott, who was sidelined for six races after fracturing his left leg while snowboarding, will make his first Cup start since Feb. 26 at Auto Club Speedway.

Josh Berry, who held down the No. 9 team fort on ovals while Elliott was away, will be on standby if needed.

Now, it’s certainly expected for Elliott to show some rust in his first handful of starts back. His leg has finally healed, and it may take some time to get back into the rhythm that the other teams and drivers currently have.

But down the line, could the missed races prove to be an advantage?

If there’s one thing that the teams and drivers can agree on, it’s that the NASCAR season is long and grueling. From early February to the first week of November, the teams only have a single week off in June.

The grind has already started with the first eight races of the season, but Elliott wasn’t on the road during his recovery. In addition, he had more downtime to relax and rest up.

In 2015, Kyle Busch was presented with a similar timeline after a crash in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. He was sidelined for the first 11 races of the season due to a broken leg, and while he didn’t make much noise in his first four starts back, Busch then proceeded to rattle off four wins in the next five races.

And, as everyone may remember, he went on to win the title that November.

Elliott may or may not see that amount of success upon returning, but he also has several good tracks lined up in the upcoming weeks.

One of them is Dover Motor Speedway on April 30, which is one of the few ovals where Elliott had scored two Cup wins. And with how dominant Hendrick has been, it would not be a surprise to see him lead laps or outright win it.

4. Will the Truck Series field be chasing Ty Majeski this year?

Ty Majeski has only led four laps in the first six NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races of 2023, but he has already built up a 34-point regular season points lead after an onslaught of top-five finishes.

With finishes of second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and 11th, Majeski is sitting with a league-leading average finish of 5.7. But while he has not been able to make his presence known at the top of the scoring pylon just yet, Majeski is coming off a second-place finish at Bristol Dirt, where he had an average running position of … 2.

ThorSport Racing teammate Logano led 138 of the 150 laps of the race on his way to the checkered flag, and if Logano had not dipped down from the Cup Series, it may very well have been Majeski leading all the laps last Saturday (April 8).

Regardless, it appears that Majeski is here to stay in the upper echelon of the Truck Series. He ended last season on a hot streak with two wins and 271 laps led in the final seven races, and with the speed the No. 98 team has shown so far, another one of those streaks may be just around the corner.

As for him being the driver to beat, he’s not there yet; defending champion Zane Smith and Christian Eckes have already impressed to the tune of three combined wins. But add a win and some extended time out front, and Majeski will be right there at the top.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

13 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
sb

Not a big fan of most of Fox coverage, but a pet peeve is NOT showing more of the field crossing the finish line. Why Fox thinks it’s more important the show the pit crew and/or spouses celebrating than informing viewers the order of finish beyond first place is frustrating. There are placings that are ein dispute right up to the finish line, but we don’t get to see it. the finish is the ‘payoff’ for watching for hours, but it doesn’t happen.

John

I 100% agree with you. Why the heck we can’t see the finishing order is beyond me. The top 10 is only up for 5 seconds before its replaced with that stupid art-work picture of the winning driver which is present for twice as long. Again, that’s the director and the director, frankly, sucks.

John

I agree that camera work for last year and this year have been horrible. There are so many quick cuts, interspersed with way too much in car camera shots, and way, way too much cutting to watch a pit reporter talk about something which, in the past, was the talking while not leaving the racing action. Other issues include (forgive me) but Mike Joy is starting to show his age or there is not a good connection between the director and himself. Some of his usual precision has been lost. Clint Bowyer is better than he has ever been but is still not good at covering the race. But the loss of slapstick is welcomed and he is showing some improvement on doing his job. Guest announcers make developing flow in the booth impossible. Harvick will be a welcomed addition and could become the play by play guy going forward.
Finally, please do away with Michael Waltrip…or at least on the telecast. His pit walk is a parody of the F1 pit walk and it makes both he and Fox look like amateurish fools.
There are many lessons that can be learned by watching other sports and some of the older broadcast teams when ratings were high. Three people appears to be the right number (NBC has one too many). Harvick is a step in the right direction, but how he will interface with Bowyer is not quite clear.

Bill B

Agree with everything except the Bowyer is better than ever part. IMO now that he has gotten comfortable in the booth he’s become overbearing and rude at times.

DoninAjax

At Martinsville and Richmond and Bristol FOX needs ONE camera in place high enough between turns one and two to show the entire track. That is the only picture they should use to televise the example of Brian’s product.

Kurt Smith

Sometimes I swear Fox is trying to destroy NASCAR. In the years since they have started broadcasting races, there’s been little regard for offering the best fan experience. Every year one of my favorite days of the year is when another network…ANY network…takes over race broadcasts.

Mike Joy is a great announcer, but he constantly has to work with amateurs in the booth.

Their pre-race show is beyond unwatchable, because Fox thinks it’s about them. They do absolutely nothing to get me interested in the race I’m about to see. I don’t even bother with it. Just let me know when the green flag drops.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kurt Smith
Rae

Not showing the finishing order of the ENTIRE field frustrates me to no end. I have to go to Nascar.com to see it. When wrecks happen that involve multiple cars, I keep waiting to see a run down of who all was involved, but it never happens. I want to know who was involved, who is out of the race and who was able to stay on track. Video of the pit crews working to get the cars fixed and back out is exciting, but we never see it. Many times during the race I’ll watch the current running order to see someone out of the race, or laps down and they never said a word about it. Fox coverage just kills me!

Chris

I don’t know, yearly fans complain endlessly about NBC, now it’s Fox. Then add in the “Netflix Effect” where for the first time ever in 2022, the number of streaming TV views exceeded the number of linear TV views in the US, where’s there’s no commercials, or very limited ones. it changes expectations. Further add in that all linear TV views are down across the board, Looking at viewing numbers, without looking at market share (where NASCAR still dominates) is kind of simplistic, because it doesn’t paint the full picture as TV viewing is fragmenting & changing at a rapid pace. Looking for a neat, singular answer to a more complex issue isn’t easy. There’s a much bigger picture than who’s in the booth, how long the post race happens to be, what the camera is showing etc. Sure improvements in the broadcast can be made, but I think the challenges are much bigger and the answers are more complex than just what Fox is doing or not doing.

Bill B

I’ll just say this. If you leave it to a network to decide how the sport operates, they will do their best to turn it into a reality television series

banzaibonnie

I’m disgusted with the inclusion b s- esp. since it only involves one group.. Larson is a”minority but no Asian mention-no hispanic music either-the whole mess drives away your old guard and they’re not attracting that small minority getting all the attention.

Sports Benches

Should FOX leave the sport, it’s hard to imagine seeing CBS getting the rights anytime soon when they got the golf on every week + March Madness basketball. TNT via WBD Sports would be a great return to the sport to air the first half Pay TV races but then they don’t have a Free TV platform or partner to support that bid. Although I think CBS would be a great bet in just sharing the first half season races with TNT for the Free TV packages, but CBS would want to air and promote the whole thing by themselves. And I know it’s not possible for one network to air all the races including the Xfinity, Trucks and support series throughout 40 or so weeks every year unless they can splash really lots of money to foot in the bill, but ESPN/ABC would be a great fit in FOX’s place by getting to air the Daytona 500 rights again for the first time in a long time while NBC can always stay airing the other half of the in the race towards the annual championship playoffs.

jim

i am only reading this because i was hoping preese would do good this year in cup but i havent watched a race this year i was a 40 year plus nascar fan they lost what racing is

Tom

My opinion on the TV coverage is that it’s apparent that the director in the truck is NOT a race fan so they don’t seem to know which camera to pan to at what time! When we’re watching the race and something exciting is happening, too many times it’s only slightly visible from the wrong shot! And the artistic zooming into the side of the effing car! Hire a race fan to direct the show!!!

Share via