Monday afternoon races are never good for the sport.
It severely limits the visibility of the event, regardless of where it is. Also, the on-track product can be negatively affected by both the track surface and the general desire to get the race over with.
Monday (May 1) saw Rusty Wallace join Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer in the FOX broadcast booth for his first TV NASCAR Cup Series broadcast for many years. He was already out of the booth by the time I started critiquing for Frontstretch, so I never really got to write much of anything about his commentary during his ESPN days. It does say something that ESPN replaced him in the Cup booth after only one year in favor of Dale Jarrett and relegated him to a studio role.
Last week, Frontstretch‘s own Michael Massie had the chance to talk to Wallace, who is now a part of MRN Radio’s broadcast crew. During that interview, he described the difference between calling a race on radio as compared to television.
Having to be more descriptive with your commentary sort of comes with the game on radio. After all, most of your listeners cannot see the race.
That said, I really wanted to see how Wallace would do in the booth. Compared to what I remember from the late 2000s, Monday saw a different Wallace in the booth. A bit more calculated and maybe not as wild. Then again, Rusty’s 66 years old these days.
What I did see is someone that did quite a bit of prep for his time in the booth. He came armed with some thoughts. There was a discussion of the whole extracurricular activities argument since Alex Bowman got hurt last week at 34 Raceway, something that Frontstretch’s Stephen Stumpf covered on Sunday.
Wallace seems to have followed Ty Gibbs fairly closely so far this season and has really liked what he’s seen. It is arguable that part of the reason that he’s gone about his rookie year so quietly is that the end of 2022 was really hard on him. We don’t really need to rehash why the end of last year was so hard on Gibbs. You can put up a hard front all you want, but having an entire crowd taunting you like they did last fall is going to be hard on the average 19-year-old (he’s 20 now).
Overall, I felt that Wallace brought some good analysis to Monday’s telecast. He was engaging to both Joy and Bowyer, drawing the regular analyst into a slightly more substantial role on the broadcast that was good to see.
Bowyer has gotten into this habit this year of not really showing any emotion and just going through the motions. It’s a shame, and I wish that it wasn’t happening, but it is.
There were a couple of strange instances that occurred during the race. Recently, the “Ones to Watch” feature has been moved from the latter part of the race to right after the end of stage one. On Monday, most of the feature was cut off by commercials.
Seriously, they started the piece, then there was a hard cut to a Spectrum commercial and one for Visit Florida (actual commercials seen here would depend on where you live). That struck me as extremely odd and unplanned. I also believe that the booth had no knowledge of that happening. If they did, then they likely would have replayed the piece at some point later in the broadcast. I’m not going to say that I look forward to it every week, but something like that was so weird.
Also, there was a lot of discussion about the latest bit of shenanigans that Bob Pockrass was charged with doing this past week in Frontstretch‘s own Slack feed. During the broadcast, there was a clip of Pockrass in a giant bouncy house accidentally knocking down a little girl with a soft pillar.
The reactions here were all over the place. Daniel McFadin stated he thought Pockrass was being forced to debase himself by his employer. Others thought that it was a way to show that there are things for little kids to do at the track in addition to the race.
As for me, I thought it was ridiculous. I didn’t think it was a good idea to give that airtime during the race. I will say that the seven-year-old version of me would have been all over that … before the race.
Tire issues were a sizable story on Monday. The fear was that it was going to be a huge issue, hence the competition caution on lap 20. If anything, it actually got worse as the race went on. First, Joey Logano had his issues, then Kevin Harvick. Bubba Wallace had issues as well, but it happened right as he was going to pit anyway.
It was a little difficult to figure out just what was wrong with Harvick when he dropped off the pace in the final laps of stage 2. It was ultimately about 15 minutes later before he learned of his unwinding issue.
The broadcast did show some of the tires that had issues (Logano’s was particularly bad), but we never got any kind of a reference for what good tire wear for a long run was Monday. The only good tires we saw were during the competition caution, and 21 laps under green only constitute a long run on a road course.
Monday’s race had a little more passing than last year, but also six fewer cautions. As a result, the field was a little more spread out. Despite that fact, FOX Sports 1 could have done a much better job being more inclusive and showing battles throughout the field. Yes, William Byron and Ross Chastain battled quite a bit at the front, but there’s more going on than that.
You only got a little bit of racing at a time on the broadcast. I wasn’t in Dover Monday as I was working my day job from home. Still, I’m fairly confident that there was a lot more racing to be had out there than what we saw.
Monday’s race will ultimately be best remembered for the latest edition of Everybody Hates Ross. This time, he got way too aggressive while trying to get past Brennan Poole and took him out. Kyle Larson ended up being a victim.
Naturally, everyone was angry. The booth thought it was overly aggressive race craft that caused it. That’s something I can agree with. Others argued the rules package. Regardless, Poole and Rick Ware Racing ended up with a trashed car.
Sadly, this crash likely changed the outcome of the race. Larson appeared to have the best car at the time and was on a mission. I would have liked to see him take the fight to Byron and Martin Truex Jr. Unfortunately, we’ll never know now.
Post-race coverage was actually rather brief. The rescheduled race was plopped into a four-hour timeslot, and the event ended early enough that there should have been a decent amount of post-race coverage. Instead, viewers only got interviews with Truex and Chastain before leaving Dover early (much of the Chastain post-race interview was centered upon the aforementioned wreck).
I don’t really get the point of that. You already had the slot, might as well make use of it. I guess everyone really wanted to get home, which happens with these Monday races. Perhaps everyone had to move their buns to catch the last Southwest flight to Charlotte for the night out of BWI.
This particular race was an unusual scenario. There was no sitting around waiting for NASCAR to make a call on whether or not they would be racing Sunday. NASCAR chose to cancel at 10:30 a.m. ET, 90 minutes prior to the start of the rescheduled NASCAR RaceDay (the race was originally scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET, but NASCAR moved up the start by an hour with 24 hours’ notice).
As a result, NASCAR RaceDay still aired live even though the race had already been postponed. Definitely a weird feeling.
Given that scenario, what do you do? In this case, they interviewed drivers via Skype (they were in what appeared to be their palatial motorcoaches) and talked about some of the main stories of the week.
Regan Smith also did a walking interview with Truex, where they discussed Truex’s prior success at Dover (much of which has occurred in delayed races) and his season to date. They seemed to be very good in picking their pieces this weekend. Or, they got lucky.
Overall, I liked the commentary out of the booth on Sunday. Wallace made for a decent addition to the booth. Very different from how readers would have perceived Wallace back in his ESPN days.
The race likely came off on TV as much more boring than it actually was. That is not swell. That is something that the production team needs to look into. Cover as much action as you possibly can. Not everything happens at the very front of the field.
That’s all for this week. This weekend, Kansas Speedway will host a tripleheader with the NASCAR Cup Series, Craftsman Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Series. In South Florida, Formula 1 will make its second visit to Miami Gardens. None of the typical support classes will be in Miami-Dade County this weekend. Only the IMSA-sanctioned Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America will support the grand prix. TV listings can be found here.
We will have critiques of the Cup and Truck races from Kansas in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will cover Saturday’s A-Game 200.
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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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