Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Returns With a Breath of Fresh Air

Nashville Superspeedway brought NBC Sports back to the NASCAR Cup Series for the remainder of the 2023 season. With NBC came the broadcast booth that you’re familiar with and the pit reporters that you’re familiar with. However, some aspects of the broadcast were missing.

Central Tennessee in late June can be hot as heck. That is why NASCAR chose to move the start of the race back to after 7 p.m. ET for this year. Putting the race on NBC meant that they literally left themselves no time to preview the race since the NBC Nightly News was right before the broadcast.

Then, the weather forecast intruded on things. A threat of thunderstorms forced NASCAR to move up the start of the race by nearly 20 minutes. As a result, there was no pre-race coverage. When NBC went on-air Sunday night (June 25), the cars were already on the track for the pace laps. It was as if the race was being run on a Monday. That is not a very good look.

While there are a group of race fans that do not particularly like pre-race coverage, I am not one of those people. They should have come up with some way to have some pre-race coverage Sunday. It is a situation where you wish NBCSN still existed. Nowadays, they would probably have had to do it on Peacock.

See also
Ryan Blaney, Other Drivers Frustrated with Exposed Concrete Wall at Nashville

Likely the scariest moment of Sunday night’s race was Ryan Blaney’s meeting with the unprotected concrete wall on the inside of turn 1 on lap 147.

Am I surprised that Blaney managed to find an unprotected wall at Nashville Superspeedway? No. Did NBC have a good shot of Blaney’s hit live? No. But they did have a few additional angles that showed the hit in detail.

They were also able to tie in what we saw to all the recent changes to the Next Gen chassis to allow for greater crush. We also got radio chatter from Brad Keselowski to explain what happened to cause the chain reaction.

Now, viewers on NBC got the clean version of Blaney’s interview after leaving the infield care center. The assembled non-TV media (including Frontstretch) heard Blaney drop an F-bomb in anger about the lack of a SAFER Barrier.

I was driving home from the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen when this crash happened and heard the interview live on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Now, this interview airing on SiriusXM is not a problem. PRN Radio broadcasts also air on over-the-air terrestrial radio. That might be a little more problematic as the FCC can step in here and levy penalties.

Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. spent the early portions of both the Cup race and Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 at the exit of pit road this past weekend. While Earnhardt did note that you could learn a thing or two about the racing line and handling characteristics by doing this, you all but couldn’t hear what they were saying. As a result, the whole tactic came off as a headscratcher to me.

It strikes me as something that would work better for practice and/or qualifying broadcasts. Also, since Xfinity Series cars have exhaust pipes exiting on the passenger side only, maybe it would work better on those broadcasts. Honestly, Cup cars have never been louder than they are now.

The on-track product Sunday night was actually pretty good. I think it surprised a lot of people. Our own Dalton Hopkins thought that perhaps, Nashville Superspeedway could win out over the fairgrounds with the current on-track product for the Cup Series.

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Thinkin' Out Loud at Nashville: Are You Sure You Want to Return the Fairgrounds Right Now?

There was a decent amount of racing for position and NBC did well to show that action. On lap 164, they broke out the rare triple box to show three separate battles. The groove was wide enough that drivers could use multiple lines in battles. The racing was clean, but very competitive.

The booth was clearly into the racing product that they were covering, which is a change as compared to some of the races during the FOX portion of the season. It is a welcome change.

The NBC booth is an excitable lot. The on-track product made them happy, but they are just more descriptive in general. It is legitimately a wholly different approach to covering a race. Now, they are not going to be as descriptive as PRN Radio was in covering the race, but it is not a chatty broadcast with people saying things to say things.

Speaking of PRN Radio, they made a big deal out of Noah Gragson giving Ross Chastain the business early in the race when he was trying to keep himself on the lead lap. If you are reading this column, you probably know why they did it.

NBC will have post-race coverage live on Peacock immediately following the checkered flag for every Cup race this year. Given the early start and a general green-flag feel to the event, the checkered flag flew at 10:05 p.m. ET. Technically, that meant that there was still 55 minutes remaining in NBC’s timeslot.

The post-race content was detailed. Viewers got to hear from the top seven finishers, got a recap of the race and a bunch of analysis. Chastain joined Kyle Petty, Marty Snider, and Dale Jarrett on the Peacock Pit Box for questions as well. Basically, this was very similar to what you would have gotten on NBCSN a couple of years ago before they killed the channel.

Overall, Sunday’s broadcast was a breath of fresh air. The FOX portion of the season can come off as very stagnant. It is like Dr. Hartman on Family Guy. He has this thing where he scares his patients, but he is not talking about an ailment, but some random thing. It is shtick. The shtick might be ok in March, but once you get to June, it drives you nuts.

They do not really have shtick on NBC’s broadcasts. What you get is a more honest way to broadcast a race. It is a relief.

The broadcast was also a bit more inclusive than what we have been seeing the last month or so from FOX. Also good to see.

That’s all for this week. Next week, NASCAR ventures into the unknown as it will finally be time for teams to take on the Chicago Street Course. Personally, I am looking forward to the racing, but I would be lying if I did not tell you that I was a little nervous. The only thing I can guarantee is that no one’s winning the Grant Park 220 by 50 seconds like James Davison did in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race in 2021.

Outside of NASCAR, INDYCAR will be back in action at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, while Formula 1 visits the Red Bull Ring in Austria. TV Listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup Series and Xfinity Series races from Grant Park in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. If this weekend gets a second go around, look for the Xfinity race to be lengthened as 121 miles is too short.

Note that NBC announced Saturday that the MVP (Multiple Vantage Point) broadcast will be back in use next weekend in Chicago. Mike Bagley will be back.

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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SB

I was thrilled to see NBC cover more of the field, find good racing everywhere in the field. even during split screen ads, they didn’t just show the leader running by himself. MUCH more inclusive race coverage. Now, if they would only show more than just the leader at the finish line….

dawg

Put me firmly in the group that was surprised, & pleased to have seen cars actually on the track when I tuned in at the advertised start time.

I’m used to having about 20 min. of my time to do something else while waiting to see cars actually on track. What I missed, I didn’t miss at all.

I’m a veteran, & not anti American, but I’ve heard the National Anthem whistled, played on trumpet, guitar, & sang by people who forgot the words, or otherwise butchered it.

But I think the thing I liked the best, was the fact that while Burton seemed to carry the broadcast, he didn’t get excited & start screeching like he usually did last season.

In short I was well satisfied with what I saw & heard, with one small exception, that has already been noted. At the start Jeff, & Jr were at track level, & got drowned out by motor noise. Thankfully, that didn’t last long.

DoninAjax

“When NBC went on-air Sunday night (June 25), the cars were already on the track for the pace laps. It was as if the race was being run on a Monday. That is not a very good look.”

Wrong! That’s the way it should be. When the NFL has a kickoff time of 1:00 gues when the ball gets kicked off? Too many sports have started delaying the start to allow for more crap and commercials after a half hour or one hour of pre-event drivel. Now they will go back to the usual coverage. I’ve said theis before. When the Daytona 500 was first telecast live the telecast started at 12: 40 and the green flag flew at 12:45. Those were the days my friend but they came to an end.

Bill B

The NFL isn’t exactly a great example because, while the games start immediately, there is always a network pre-game show on both Fox and CBS. The only difference is that it’s usually for all the teams playing that week (focusing mainly on the immediate games coming up at 1:00 or 4:00.
You are correct that the starting time is pretty much as advertised and your point is well taken. The race should start when the TV slot say it does, not 40 minutes later.

Bill H

The coverage was such a vast improvement over Fox that I sort of hate to nitpick, but to booth tended to get so excited that they failed to be very clear about what was happening.

A wheel came off after a driver left the pits and returned to pit road, and Junior is explaining at great length why that was not a two lap penalty while another announcer was telling us that the driver was “now two laps down.” The drivers was later shown as two laps down, but I never heard if that was due to a two-lap penalty or due to time lost while changing the wheel.

Still don’t know. I think that, since he left the pit with an insecure wheel, it was a two lap penalty. Was it? Can anyone tell me?

That was just one. There were several instances where excitement seemed to make them lose the bubble. Nonetheless, vastly, immeasurably better than Fox.

MN

Speak for yourself about the start. I loved it when i turned on NBC and they were ready to go. I find it hard to believe there was .no pre race on Peacock. I’m tired of seeing a starting air time at the top of the hour,turn on the TV at the bottom of the hour and they’re STILL doing pre race.

Anonymous

Sorry, disagree with the previous comments. I enjoy the pre-race interviews with the drivers. Also, NBC rotates through the listing of the driver’s positions too quickly – can’t read that fast – if you driver is not listed in the top 20. Advice: if you don’t like pre-race coverage, turn the TV on at the start time. There are others that do… And, I enjoy both FOX and NBC – different, both entertaining, factual.

DoninAjax

If you don’t work for NA$CAR send in your resume as soon as you can. Their PR department will hire you in a New York second. Only NA$CAR agrees with what the networks are doing to get a TV deal.

TiminPayson

Jeff Burton screeched his way through
the whole broadcast

DoninAjax

There’s a new Screech on TV.

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