Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Presides Over Good Racing & Shenanigans

Memorial Day weekend is normally one of the greatest weekends of the year for race fans.

Weather made Charlotte miserable after Friday night (May 26). Saturday was a washout, and so was Sunday. More rain and mist made much of Monday pretty miserable. But they managed to get everything in.

Monday’s will be best remembered for two different things. The most obvious is the crash on lap 184 that eliminated Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott from the race.

As you can see, Clint Bowyer was very quick in his opinion that the crash was intentional. Beyond the end of the above video, a replay was shown from just after the restart where the two had contact exiting turn 2. Radio chatter aired on the broadcast also indicated that Elliott was not pleased with Hamlin for “running over him twice in four laps.”

If this incident was a civil trial, that would likely be enough evidence to establish culpability. NASCAR’s further investigation Tuesday (May 30), which included analysis of SMT data, throttle traces and everything else, proved it beyond a reasonable doubt in NASCAR’s eyes, hence the suspension.

See also
5 Points to Ponder: Does Parking Chase Elliott Accomplish Anything?

I’m honestly surprised that Hamlin consented to the interview with FOX Sports’ Josh Sims. You can just sense the fury.

The use of the term “tantrum” here is interesting. If someone says that about another adult, it is effectively an attack on that person’s maturity level.

Quite simply, FOX pretty much had it nailed from the start. Elliott and Hamlin had had a series of bumping incidents during the race leading up to that point.

The cause of this issue was completely unintentional. The handling temporarily went away on Hamlin’s car, which caused him to lift off the accelerator and drift up the track. Elliott just so happened to be there. It’s a classic “racing deal.”

Unfortunately, since so much other stuff happened before that, Elliott couldn’t let it go. The result ended up being two trashed Next Gen cars (especially Hamlin’s) and Elliott sitting out at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. This was completely avoidable.

See also
Bubba Wallace Tangles with Aric Almirola, Surges to 4th

The other was the confrontation between Bubba Wallace and Aric Almirola. That particular situation is far different. FOX did not actually catch the confrontation live and did not talk about it at the time. The only footage of the shove came from a fan in the stands and was posted on Twitter.

After the red flag was lifted, FOX aired the aforementioned video that was taken from the stands. At the time, it was not accompanied by any context. Effectively, they didn’t know what caused this mess that was quickly broken up by NASCAR’s head of security.

Later on, footage was aired showing that the two drivers had come together on the backstretch earlier in the race.

Since then, we’ve heard from both drivers. Almirola alleged that Wallace was letting the birds fly in his general direction, which angered him.

Wallace didn’t really want to talk about the situation after the race. That said, he did say to the assembled media about Almirola, “When you walk around with two faces, that’s what you get.”

I don’t think this spat is just about Monday. There’s more going on there that we either don’t know about or forgot about.

The racing product Monday in Charlotte was quite good. There was a lot of racing for position, not just up front, but throughout the field. The action up front did keep FOX from being able to air a lot of the action further back. That said, this was far from a boring race to watch.

There were a couple of questionable decisions. For instance, Danny McBride spent some time in the broadcast booth during stage 2 to promote the newest season of The Righteous Gemstones, the HBO series that he created and stars in.

My best guess is that the situation would have been approached differently had the race run as scheduled on Sunday. McBride stayed over an extra night to fulfill his role as the honorary pace car driver, then chatted in the booth under green. At the time, they kept the camera on the booth instead of showing the racing. It’s distracting, and FOX really shouldn’t be doing that.

Post-race coverage was relatively brief since the broadcast was already nearly an hour over time. Viewers heard from race winner Ryan Blaney and runner-up William Byron.

You also got soundbites from Almirola and Wallace about their earlier mess. Knowing that Wallace finished fourth Monday night, I would have liked to hear more from him. There more than likely is more to that interview, but FOX chose not to air the rest. The soundbite is consistent with the rest of Wallace’s post-race media availability though.

Pre-race coverage was quite substantial. With the wet weather clearly having set in, Chris Myers, Tony Stewart and Bowyer set up shop inside of the NASCAR Cup Series garage to present the show. It was nothing that hadn’t been done before by ESPN, but it was a nice setup.

Before the ridiculousness during the race, one of the main stories entering the weekend was the return of Alex Bowman after he flipped his sprint car in a heat race for the High Limit event at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa. Bowman described what happened in the crash to Sims.

Despite being cleared to return, Bowman is clearly not 100%. He expressed concerns about the jack dropping since it was similar to how he landed from his flip. In addition, he coughed during the interview and was in significant pain afterward. Watching that made me feel concerned that maybe Bowman came back too quickly. So far, those fears are unfounded.

In addition, there was a piece on Staff Sargeant Curtis Roy Cline, who was featured on the windshield banner of Brad Keselowski’s No. 6. Cline went missing in action in 1969 in Vietnam.

The postponement Sunday came around 6:30 p.m. ET. Bowyer didn’t want to say it. I get it. It bites. No one wants a race to be postponed, but you have to inform the public. That is your duty as an on-air personality.

Overall, this was an enjoyable race to watch. The weather just made it take forever. I feel terrible for the NASCAR Xfinity Series teams that were racing until after 11 p.m. ET Monday night and had to pull an all-nighter swapping everything out before leaving Tuesday for the 50-hour haul to Portland. Woof.

Stewart was back in the booth Monday and did a decent job. I really can’t complain about his performance. Bowyer appeared to be on his game as well. He needs something to stand out in order to perform at his best, and you got that Monday.

That’s all for now. This weekend is the first split weekend of the year for NASCAR. The NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be at World Wide Technology Raceway. The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be at Portland International Raceway for a standalone event with ARCA Menards Series West on the undercard. The NTT IndyCar Series will be on a new circuit in Downtown Detroit with IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge’s Grand Sport class supporting them. TV listings are here.

We will provide critiques of Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 and more in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will cover additional action from Charlotte.

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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Kevin in SoCal

WWT should be 300 laps, not 300 miles. :( 300 miles is an XFINITY race.

Last edited 11 months ago by Kevin in SoCal

I commend FOX for focusing on two ‘drivers that are wonderful ad libbing with a mike. I had no idea that Austin cindric had such a dry sense of humor and quick wit. Same for carson Hocevar. they were both outstanding and totally entertaining as the network let them run with it. Nice to get a chance to see more of the personalities from drivers when they aren’t be paid spoke persons for their sponsors!

Bill W.

There was no mention of the truck or infinity race. Mikey was in the booth for both races and ran his mouth nonstop. The bad thing is that he will be in the booth for the cup race this week along with K.Wallace. Lets see who can run their mouth the longest without coming up for air.

Bill B

Looks like I will be muting the TV and cranking up some tunes while I watch the race this week.
Call it “MWS” (Michael Waltrip Syndrome). There is nothing that I like about that guy once he opens his mouth.


Fox broadcasting needs to keep their minds on the race and not let C lint B start shooting his mouth off about anything else. The broadcasters keep talking about things that have nothing to do with race.

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