Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Pocono Brings Good Racing, More Trouble Catching Issues

When teams arrived at Pocono Raceway this past weekend, they arrived to a revised facility. For one, the VIP tower at the start/finish line has been demolished and replaced with a new expanded fan fair. Victory lane had also been moved, and fans turned out in droves as evidenced by the full grandstands.

Sunday (July 24) saw a rather obvious shift in how NASCAR Cup Series racing is being presented. We’re getting closer to the playoffs, so I guess it was inevitable, but point crunching appears to be here. In this situation, a number of drivers further down the order get a little more coverage. Much of Countdown to Green was dedicated to them. We’re not quite to the point of constant point updates during the race yet, but that will likely show up in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday’s HighPoint.com 400 will likely be best remembered for the battle between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson for the lead in the closing laps.

The move that Hamlin pulled looks quite similar to what he did last year to Ross Chastain. Unlike Chastain, Larson was able to keep it together and not wreck himself.

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5 Points to Ponder: Villain Role Suits Denny Hamlin Fine

This is a situation where NBC Sports is lucky to have someone who is willing to speak their mind on the broadcast. That someone is Kyle Petty. Hamlin denied that he ever touched Larson after the race to a chorus of boos from the crowd. He then continued to deny it on Monday’s edition of his Actions Detrimental podcast.

Petty came right out during NASCAR America Post-Race and stated that he didn’t appreciate Hamlin’s actions. He said that Hamlin is trying to play himself off as a victim here.

A victim of what? Most reading this article would likely find it difficult to figure out how Hamlin could be construed as a victim since he appears to be the aggressor here. Unless there’s something we didn’t see. With how Sunday’s broadcast turned out, there may be more to the story that hasn’t come out as of yet.

In reality, since Hamlin did effectively the same thing last year to Chastain, it could be considered part of his modus operandi. I’m going to squeeze into your lane, and if you don’t back out of a line that you’re entitled to take, it’s your fault if anything were to happen. It’s a dirty tactic. Not Dick Dastardly-level, but definitely not within the realm of fair play. The late Ayrton Senna was known to race in such a fashion, agitating his rivals.

The broadcast booth was pretty clear that there was contact between Hamlin and Larson. It looked pretty obvious to me as well. Having said that, I don’t necessarily think Hamlin was lying when he said that he didn’t feel any contact. He probably didn’t. It was very light contact, but contact nonetheless.

The broadcast did a great job covering the quagmire. If anything, Hamlin made himself look really bad here. I don’t expect anything else to come of it, but Hamlin does seem to be leaning into the boos.

Pocono is a big place — as such, the field can get spread out. There are various nooks and crannies where things can get missed. Likely the best example of such an occasion was Elliott Sadler’s bad wreck in 2010.

Unlike what Marty Reid said on ESPN at the time, Kurt Busch did not get the worst of it. At the time, I wasn’t surprised that ESPN was unable to catch the wreck but I still wasn’t happy about it.

Sunday saw a few more instances of missing the story. It started early with JJ Yeley’s spin exiting the Tunnel Turn on lap 5. It looked like Todd Gilliland got into him, but the booth couldn’t really tell. As a result, it didn’t want to say anything.

Another example was Justin Haley’s wreck toward the end of the race. You could see Haley get hit and spin live, but we never saw a replay of how it happened. The only replay aired started after Haley had already spun.

Even more so was what happened with two laps to go. The race ended under yellow after Ryan Preece spun and was unable to get his Ford restarted. The replays were a little late, and you couldn’t see what happened to cause the spin.

Well, we know what happened now. That crash occurred because Corey LaJoie apparently got in the back of Preece in the Tunnel Turn. Preece was not happy about it and angrily confronted LaJoie about it.

Preece is not going to get that angry about anything minuscule. Something blatant happened, and viewers had no idea about it. It’s another one of those you-had-to-be-there moments.

NBC Sports made no mention of it, perhaps because it didn’t know about the contact. The footage seen in the clip above came from the dash-mounted cameras that NASCAR has in every car for NASCAR Drive on NASCAR.com.

This is two weeks in a row for Preece. I understand that racing is stressful, but you have to calm yourself down. And NBC Sports needs to pay better attention to what’s going on out there. Viewers wanted to know about this confrontation and why it occurred.

Post-race coverage was substantial, even with the race running a little bit long. Viewers were guaranteed 30 minutes of post-race coverage. They got it, split between USA Network and Peacock.

Normally, Larson is unflappable, but he was pretty peeved, and he had every right to be ticked. After his interview for TV, Larson elaborated with the gathered media, including Frontstretch.

With everything that happened at the end of the race, a lot of stories got lost. For example, both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Harrison Burton got top-10 finishes. Especially with Burton, I was shocked. He wasn’t really in the hunt all day and he waltzed out of Pocono with an eighth-place finish. He needed that.

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In all, much of the broadcast was actually really good. Viewers got a decent amount of racing to cover and the booth was clearly into the race, both with the on-track racing and the strategy involved.

The problem is that certain aspects of the race get lost. I don’t want to find out about pit road confrontations four hours after the race ends. While I’d rather that the confrontations not happen at all for reasons that are along the lines of them embarrassing the sport, it is NBC Sports’ responsibility to cover those stories when they happen. If it doesn’t do it, it’s dropping the ball.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a split weekend for NASCAR. The NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Craftsman Truck series will be at Richmond Raceway, where it will be hot and humid this weekend. Meanwhile, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be at Road America and Formula 1 travels to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. TV listings can be seen here.

We will have critiques of both races from Richmond next week here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will cover Saturday’s action from Pocono.

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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SB

I give some credit to Junior when he pointed out that the boos from the fans weren’t because of throwing the yellow flag.

Dawg

I’m not sure that I would classify what I saw at Pocono, as “good racing”.

But I probably grade on a different curve than most.

One thing I did see, was great crowd support. Pennsylvania is known as a hotbed of racing, & the fans didn’t disappoint.

Maybe NASCAR should look at a couple of legendary Pa. dirt tracks for their dirt race.

DoninAjax

NA$CAR should do, and undo, a lot of things but the brain trust won’t due to stubbornness.

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