Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Brings Great Loudon Action, Flails with Field Movement

NASCAR just can’t seem to buy a break these days with the weather. The Crayon 301 in New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the fourth consecutive race that was affected by weather. This time, a deluge resulted in the race being postponed to Monday (July 17). While I’m sure a group of race fans were upset about it since it seemed like it wasn’t raining at all (or not hard) during Countdown to Green Sunday, New England has seen a lot of precipitation recently.

Neighboring Vermont has been shellacked with rain and flooding. I’m in the Albany, N.Y. TV market, which includes much of Southern Vermont. Believe me, it’s a mess up there. Parts of the Adirondacks here in New York are pretty messy as well. There’s a reason why the Camping World SRX Series isn’t racing at Thunder Road International Speedbowl Thursday night.

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New Hampshire has been a little better off, but Sunday morning’s weather was ridiculous with heavy rains and lightning. Heck, there was even a tornado warning Sunday morning about 40 miles from the track. Scary stuff. You don’t want to mess with that.

As a result, NASCAR went green just after noon ET Monday. On the surface, fans were treated to effectively what they would have seen last year had Martin Truex Jr. not run into issues late in the race.

Even with Truex leading all but 47 laps Monday, you had a more competitive race than last year. The new tire that was used (along with the hot weather) allowed for the groove to expand quite a bit. Drivers spent a good amount of time racing outside of the lower three lanes, which has never really been common at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That fact more or less amazed the broadcast booth. The PJ1 TrackBite is more or less gone now after having not been re-applied for years. As a result, the different lines you saw were genuine. The sealer in the upper grooves that was referenced on the broadcast dates to the mid-2000s.

As compared to last year, passing was up 95%. The current setup of NHMS allows for competitive racing on a flat track and we’re in the time of the year in which broadcasts are generally equipped to bring that action.

There were plenty of instances in which the double box was brought out to show multiple races for positions. The rare triple box came out to play on one occasion as well.

There were a couple of aspects of the broadcast that backfired a little. The best example is the restart on lap 170 when Aric Almirola crashed out of the race.

It doesn’t show on the clip above from NASCAR’s YouTube channel, but all five in-car cameras were shown on the broadcast for that restart. It more or less distracted the broadcast booth to the point where it nearly missed Almirola’s trouble. That’s not a good look.

The analysis that followed this situation was pretty well. Steve Letarte explained that Almirola’s crew failed to get the wheel to seat properly due to the fact that the right rear wheel was spinning while Trevor White was trying to tighten it. In the past, the spinning would have meant that Almirola had taken his foot off the brake, but not so much now (note that the wheel spinning would be a penalty in many other series).

While Almirola ended up losing what could have been his only chance to win this year, he might also lose some crewmembers as well. We’ll see what happens later this week.

Post-race coverage was fairly brief. Viewers got to hear from the top-four finishers (Truex, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick) along with a check of the points.

Also, there was some footage of a discussion between Michael McDowell and Ryan Preece. Apparently, the two drivers came together while battling for a position (McDowell finished 13th while Preece was 28th). Watching the broadcast, I had no idea why they were angry. What we saw on the broadcast was the second discussion. A fan in the stands caught Preece angrily meeting McDowell at his car on pit road.

So, what happened here? Preece was upset at McDowell because McDowell ran him up into the outside wall in turn 1 at some point. That incident was never mentioned on the broadcast. Not 100% sure when it happened. It sounded like the broadcasters were looking for the footage, but never found it before NASCAR America Post-Race ended. An hour after the race, NASCAR posted this tweet that provides the backstory to the confrontation, taken from the dash cameras of both cars that are available on NASCAR Drive.

By all indications, this incident was not intentional. McDowell just got loose and Preece ended up being there. The handling issues might explain why McDowell dropped from eighth down to 20th before recovering to finish 13th.

We’ve seen from previous races that the NASCAR Drive footage is available for the actual race broadcasts. The most recent example I can point to was at Nashville Superspeedway when the broadcast used the NASCAR Drive camera in a replay at the end of the race to show Ryan Blaney’s hit on the unprotected concrete wall.

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As the race continued, there were a number of drivers that were making moves, both positive and negative. On the positive side, Larson dropped back early, then drove up from outside of the top 20 to an eventual third-place finish. On the other hand, teammate William Byron led early and was running very well. He ended up finishing 24th. I know for sure that he wasn’t penalized for anything.

There is the fact that Byron had contact on pit road with Justin Haley on lap 130. That was replayed and the booth put the blame on Byron (or his spotter) since Haley has the right of way in that circumstance. The problem is, it was unclear whether Byron’s car was damaged by that contact. Then, you didn’t really hear anything about Byron for a while.

What joined Larson and Byron’s stories together (other than the fact that they’re teammates) is the fact that you never really got any idea of their progression or regression through the field. They were good, then they weren’t (or vice versa). I’m not a fan of that. Sure, we have a scoring pylon, but a scoring pylon can only do so much. A pylon only tells you where someone is at that moment. It cannot tell you why someone is where they are or what happened to get them there.

That is where the broadcast comes into play by filling in the gaps. There were three pit reporters (Dave Burns, Kim Coon and Marty Snider) on the broadcast Monday, yet no real reports came of them to explain what happened. Byron was likely disappointed with his finish and did not speak to reporters after the race.

Remember that Byron was leading the points entering the race. The 24th-place finish allowed Truex to jump over him and retake the points lead that he lost in Atlanta. You’d think that you’d want to know what was up with the points leader and why he was running 29th at one point.

Sunday’s coverage consisted of a half-hour of Countdown to Green from the broadcast booth with Snider, Letarte and Dale Jarrett. Basically, you had a laid-back setup with Byron discussing what he keeps on his person and Dale Earnhardt Jr. showing off “Loudon The Lobster,” the live prize given to Truex for winning. There were also live cut-ins to Honda Indy Toronto, which was running on Peacock at the time.

Nothing from Loudon aired on USA Network after 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday. Since the race was already postponed, they chose to air non-sports-related programming for the rest of the day.

Overall, the race broadcast brought viewers a lot of good racing. It shows that the on-track product was pretty good on Monday. It also shows that Noah Gragson and the No. 42 team are still having a lot of problems.

My advice would be to keep better track of progression. If you see someone on a roll, make note of it. One example where this did happen was with Christopher Bell after he was forced to make an extra stop due to a loose wheel. The stories just need to be followed better.

That’s all for this week. Next week is a pretty busy weekend of racing. Pocono Raceway is hosting a quadruple-header of racing with all three of NASCAR’s national-level series and the ARCA Menards Series. INDYCAR has a doubleheader weekend at Iowa Speedway. Formula 1 makes its annual trip to the Hungaroring, while IMSA is at Lime Rock Park. TV listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup race from Pocono in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. Saturday’s wreckfest for the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be covered in The Critic’s Annex.

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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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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