Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Sports Deals with Infrastructure, Brake Rotor Issues

Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter turned into a veritable marathon. It’s a race that you’d expect to be over in about three hours. Given the track design, passing would be tricky, but doable.

What we got was significantly different. It was after 9 p.m. ET before the race was complete. Those who were on-site, like myself and Stephen Stumpf, didn’t get out of there until after midnight.

TV-wise, this race will be best remembered for the communications failure that occurred on lap 93. Basically, viewers saw a complete and total blackout while FOX Sports 1 was showing a replay of Carson Hocevar’s crash. The feed froze and after about 20 seconds, there was a hard cut to a commercial.

See also
Stock Car Scoop: Should Gateway Remain on Cup Schedule?

After the commercial, Shannon Spake and Jamie McMurray had to jump onto the broadcast from Charlotte, along with Larry McReynolds for an impromptu segment. The scenario presented here was not great in that everything went down. FOX Sports did not play a role in the issues that you witnessed. What happened here occurred in the vicinity of the track (but not at it) and didn’t just affect the TV broadcast.

MRN Radio was effectively knocked off the air for a significant chunk of the afternoon, forcing it to go to alternate programming. Teams in the pits lost access to a lot of their data and lost their internet access. The situation was serious enough that NASCAR felt it necessary to put out a statement about it.

Sadly, this was not the only problem that the track had this past weekend. Anyone there noticed that the scoring pylon was acting screwy for the entire weekend. The pylon would go dark at random intervals, or not update in a timely manner.

On our end in the media center, the FOX feed went down and left us with only a green screen, while the feed for the jumbotrons also went down and just had the World Wide Technology Raceway logo on it. In some cases, the issues continued for the rest of the race.

Luckily, FOX Sports was able to get some kind of broadcast from Gateway back up and running before the Hocevar caution concluded. That said, NASCAR did extend the caution so that it was ultimately 11 laps long.

It appeared that the broadcast was back up and running on FOXSports.com and the FOX Sports App first. In my case, I decided to use the app and it was up and running fairly quickly.

Regarding the other feeds, it was probably 30 laps before the jumbotrons were back up and running. At a place like WWT Raceway, it would not be as much of a deal as it would be at other tracks since the sight lines are generally pretty good and there aren’t that many tall buildings in the infield, but it was still a loss.

My understanding is that what you got on your end might have depended on where you are and who your provider is. Some markets may have ended up with alternate programming after the broadcast from Gateway had already resumed. By all means, post in the comments below what your experience was on Sunday with these issues.

Sadly, this is just the latest in infrastructure issues in and around the area over the past few years. In 2021, a transformer fire resulted in a power outage at the track followed by severe scoring issues during the Toyota 200 presented by CK Power. I covered those issues in detail back then.

The 2010 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Gateway, before the current ownership resurrected the facility, was postponed a day due to a power line failure nearby. As a result, instead of being run in relative comfort, teams contended with 95-degree weather instead. I covered that broadcast here.

Like last year’s race, there were two special guests in the booth. First, you had Michael Waltrip for the whole race. He did his Grid Walk before running up the stairs at the start-finish line to the booth. What we got out of Waltrip was pretty typical for him. He’s fairly observant but doesn’t seem to take things very seriously.

In the second stage, Kenny Wallace joined the show. Wallace was in town for multiple reasons. One, he lives in Missouri full-time once again. Two, he was co-hosting NASCAR RaceDay on stage with John Roberts, which seems to be quite popular.

Wallace has a decidedly different way to go about things as compared to the rest of the booth. Then again, he was one who pointed out that Corey LaJoie was getting trounced by his regular car with Hocevar at the wheel before the brake rotor blew up. Wallace felt for LaJoie since Sunday was clearly a coup race for his career. Admittedly, that is something that both myself and Stumpf had been thinking about during the race.

That is likely one of the reasons why you didn’t hear from LaJoie after the race. A request was sent for LaJoie to come to the post-race bullpen, but he declined.

The racing on Sunday was about the same as last year. It was difficult to pass, but it was possible. Kyle Busch theorized after winning the pole Saturday that there was going to be more bottom feeding in the corners since whatever traction compound was laid down on the track was gone. That really wasn’t the case.

Outside of the issues with lightning, the biggest story revolved around the brake rotor failures. It’s a frightening scenario. I was taking pictures near the entrance to turn 1 when Tyler Reddick’s rotor exploded. I didn’t hear the explosion, but I heard him hit the wall.

Watching the broadcast a second time, I wish that they spent some more time explaining how such a thing could happen and what is being done to prevent it. With the single-source parts that are mandated for the Next Gen car, it seems like this is unavoidable and it is a serious safety issue. Just ask this dude, who took a piece of a brake rotor off of Noah Gragson’s car to the sternum.

While this type of situation is covered by legal statements on tickets absolving the track and NASCAR of responsibility, it’s never a good look when a paying customer sitting in his seat doing nothing wrong gets hit by a piece of a race car. Thankfully, he’s ok.

Prior to all this, you had a 105-minute delay on lap 5 due to lightning. It bites, but I understand why it happened. When it was called, I was on a photo stand inside of turns 3 and 4. You had blistering sunshine at the time, but clouds were building northwest of the track.

It never actually rained at the track during that 105-minute red flag period, but what did happen was that a thunderstorm developed a couple of miles from the track, then tracked to the southwest over St. Louis. The lightning clock reset multiple times during that break.

Cloud cover moved in and made the day a bit more comfortable for those present. Whether it made a difference in the race itself is dependent on who you ask. Joey Logano didn’t think so.

Since a lightning delay is a total stop down, the broadcast couldn’t really do anything but cut back to the studio in Charlotte. It’s somewhat worse in this situation because there really wasn’t anything to discuss from the race itself since it had been green for less than two miles at that point. Eventually, there were a couple of interviews, but it was over an hour before that happened.

Since we had a long lightning delay and multiple red flags, the broadcast was already over time by over two hours. Things would have gotten even more complicated had the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series New England Nationals not been postponed to Monday due to rain.

As a result, viewers only saw an interview with race winner Busch before the broadcast left Gateway. I know for a fact that that wasn’t all they did. In the post-race bullpen, TV chaps and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Claire B. Lang) get priority over the rest of the gathered media. Before we got the chance to talk to anyone, we had to wait until Regan Smith and Jamie Little finished up. It’s the same thing with the interviews at the infield care center.

I can tell you definitively that they interviewed Larson, Denny Hamlin, Logano and Martin Truex Jr. in the bullpen. I couldn’t tell you if they interviewed anyone else outside of that group, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Once they were done, we got our chance to interview drivers. For example, Larson talked about how this was one of the proudest top-five finishes of his career.

See also
Thinkin' Out Loud at Gateway: Lightning, Power Outages and Brake Rotors, Oh My

The broadcast tried to go all-in on the Hamlin-Ross Chastain stuff from last year, which was just plain unnecessary. That strategy also ended up being a complete dud because the two drivers were never really around each other all day. They went fishing there and came up with an old shoe.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series will make its annual jaunt to Sonoma Raceway. For the first time, it will be joined by the NASCAR Xfinity Series, while the ARCA Menards Series West will serve as tertiary support.

In Europe, it is the biggest sports car race of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Note that Hendrick Motorsports is fielding the Garage 56 entry, which is a heavily modified Next Gen car. The whole race will air live on Motor Trend. TV listings can be found here.

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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DoninAjax

I was at Toledo Speedway for an ASA race when there was a crash on the frontstretch and I saw a flash at the fence and a guy went down like he was shot. A bolt came off a car and hit him. He had to go to the hospital in the track ambulance and there was a delay until a replacement arrived. The fans on Sunday were lucky.

Dawg

Watching the Indy 500, when the wheel broke off & went over the catch fence. I thought it went into the stands. I told my wife “that wheel will kill someone, maybe more than one. The Captain dodged a huge bullet on that one. Now they have a year to work on it.

I’ve seen parts go into the NASCAR stands as well, before this. And so far they’ve always been lucky.

The tethers are a good step, but Indy showed they aren’t fool proof.

Old School

The director really screwed up. They showed 3 or 4 cars cross the finish line before switching to the obligatory crew celebration. Usually it’s “we can only show you one car on the finish lap”.

DoninAjax

I noticed that too and I’m sure the network realizes what happened and the person who did responsible is now being replaced by someone more in tune with what and who the network wants to show as decided in the morning meeting.

wildcats2016

Phew Dawg, you aren’t kidding. I was watching the Indy race too and thought the same thing when the wheel came off. Geez I hope that doesn’t hurt anyone! Lucky indeed.

DoninAjax, we were at Darlington when a huge thunderstorm blew in. My brother and his daughter were out getting souvenirs so I was in the stands watching our stuff. I was talking to a friend on my cell phone when the lightning flashed in turn 3 (our seats were on the frontstretch). I told my friend – I’ve got to go, picked up our stuff and moved up under the grandstands. Before I got there, there was another lightning flash in turn 4 so it was moving my way. I didn’t need the PA to tell me it was time to move. We stayed under the grandstand in a pouring rainstorm while it went from 90 to 60 degrees. Couldn’t get any information from the track personnel. Wound up calling friends at home who were watching the tv broadcast to find out that there was a supercell just raining it’s little heart out right over the track! Finally they called the race and we drove back to the hotel. My brother and I had to work on Monday so we drove back to Phila on Sunday and listened to the race on my Sirius radio rig. That was the race that Jeff Gordon won with his radiator full of sand and the 24 car blowing water out of it but the engine held! I wound up watching the race broadcast when it was repeated on Speed!

Good memory since we were safe so it makes a good story.

DoninAjax

I didn’t mention that while waiting for the new ambulance a kid horsing around in the stands fell through and was hurt. When the ambulance showed it had to get the kid to the hospital and we had to wait longer. The race started at 8 and it ended around 1 and then I drove home and got there about 6 in the morning. The next year I got a room and the 200 lap race went about 105 laps before the first and only caution. It was over a little after 9 and we were in our room around 9:30 and drove home the next day.

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