Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Struggles with Lack of Playoff Excitement

While Hurricane Idalia is expected to make landfall in Florida in the next few days, thankfully weather wasn’t an issue for the NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday (Aug. 26). However, an older issue dating back to the downsizing of the Cup cars in 1981 that we don’t see that often came back into play in a big way.

Saturday (Aug. 26) night’s race will easily be best remembered for the wild blowover and barrel roll on lap 156 for Ryan Preece. Most younger race fans had likely never seen a flip quite like this in a Cup race before.

The barrel roll was caught live via the aerial shot, but some bad luck was at play here as it almost missed the initial contact from Erik Jones. The crash was frightening to watch.

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Holding a Pretty Wheel: NASCAR's Safety Innovation No Reason to Promote the Carnage

Dale Earnhardt Jr. described the crash as being akin to some of the flips that you saw in NASCAR in the 1980s and 1990s. Both of Rusty Wallace’s flips in 1993 come to mind and Davey Allison’s Pocono Raceway crash in 1992 as well. Earnhardt also noted that NASCAR has taken a lot of steps since then to try to prevent craziness like that.

Looking back at the replays, I don’t think that NBC did that good of a job explaining how the contact with Chase Briscoe may have played a role in the flip. In the recent past, we’ve seen crashes at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway amplified due to contact after someone has already spun out. One of the better examples of this phenomenon was Matt Kenseth’s crash at Talladega in 2016.

In this clip, you can see Danica Patrick spin into Kenseth, and the force of that contact briefly broke the contact of Kenseth’s car to the ground. That was all it took to blow it over. I believe that something similar happened Saturday night.

Other than that, I thought that NBC did a decent job of keeping things professional. There was no speculation here about Preece’s condition. The camera shots were generally pretty far back so you couldn’t see any specifics. That, plus the light reflecting off the infield reflectors meant that you couldn’t really see Preece get out of the car.

That lack of speculation continued after the crash. The broadcast gave only the most minimal of information and promised to keep viewers updated when updates were made available. That’s basically what you must do in this situation.

Outside of the Preece wreck, the big story of the evening was that it was the cutoff for the Cup Series playoffs. I thought going in that it was going to be a big ongoing story. On Countdown to Green, it was.

Viewers got a number of interviews with drivers (Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez, etc.) who were trying to get themselves into the playoffs by winning and the necessary tactics to get there. NBC wanted to have time with Bubba Wallace as well to get the other side of the issue. Wallace declined that interview request.

Am I surprised that Wallace declined? No. After the race, he described his mindset leading up to the race with the gathered media, including my Frontstretch colleagues.

In other words, had Wallace consented to the interview, you might have had a very surly Wallace being very short with whoever was talking to him. Not the best interview. He admitted that he had been short with his wife this past week due to the pressure of the cutoff race. If you’re like that with the woman you love, just imagine what a pit road interview would be like with all of that pressure hanging over him.

See also
Bubba Wallace Relieved After 'Hardest Week I've Had in a Long Time' Ends in Playoff Berth

Countdown to Green led me to believe that there was going to be a lot of cutoff coverage. That was not the case. Why? First off, Ty Gibbs, Wallace’s closest challenger for the final spot on points, was eliminated in the big wreck at the end of stage two.

Second, Wallace was able to score five stage points in stage one. That, combined with Gibbs’ wreck meant that Wallace could not have been usurped on points. The only way that would have changed would have been if someone like Elliott or Aric Almirola could have won.

Despite Preece’s crash, this was actually a fairly quiet race. The Preece flip was the only non-stage caution all night. I think that the general lack of point conversation during the broadcast was beneficial to a degree, but I’m sure that NBC wasn’t a fan of not having that in its back pocket.

As a result, there were some chunks of Saturday night’s broadcast that really didn’t have much action. Admittedly, the on-track product wasn’t really helping much. A decent amount of this portion of the race featured nearly the entire field (led by Briscoe) running single-file. It’s as if NBC needed something to help supplement its coverage, but thought it could use the point battle as a crutch. Without that crutch, it was out to lunch.

Post-race coverage for those viewers on NBC (or wherever you could watch the race, in my case, WNYA, Albany, N.Y.’s MyNetwork affiliate) had a decent amount of content. Viewers got a few interviews. Aside from race winner Chris Buescher, those interviews were mainly based around those drivers that either just squeaked into the playoffs (Wallace), or missed out (Elliott).

Since this is the last race of the regular season for Cup, I figured that there would be a lot more interviews, but that didn’t appear to be the case. I suppose that was primarily due to the fact that this was on network TV as opposed to cable.

Beyond 11 p.m. ET, there were some additional interviews with drivers like Suarez that were exclusive to Peacock. In addition, there was a good amount of post-race analysis about the race itself and Preece’s crash.

Speaking of Preece, Dave Burns gave an update about Preece being sent to the hospital for a checkup after his crash. Pretty straight coverage right down the middle since very little information was being released at the time.

See also
Ryan Preece Released From Hospital After Daytona Crash

Overall, I don’t think that NBC got the race that it was truly expecting Saturday night. Especially compared to Friday night, things were very clean. Preece’s wreck might have been a throwback to the 1980s and 1990s. The race itself might have been one.

When you get that kind of race, you have to be able to adjust your priorities. With the playoffs being so much of a focus in this case, NBC found it rather difficult to do so.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Cup Series playoffs get underway with 500 miles at Darlington Raceway, a tricky race at the best of times. It’ll be joined by the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Meanwhile, the NTT IndyCar Series makes the trip to Portland International Raceway for its penultimate race of the year. TV listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Xfinity Series races from Darlington in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter will cover some of the action from The Milwaukee Mile.

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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12 Comments
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Christopher

Preece’s wreck was not the only non-stage caution. The Gibbs wreck brought out he caution before the stage had ended but within a few laps of the stage end, which was reached under caution.

SB

So NBC didn’t have playoff ‘drama’ to beat to death, and the racing, other than the wrecks, was pretty mundane. So, how, exactly, do you expect them to cover the racing? They can only describe what is in front of them. Without the manufactured ‘excitement’ of the playoff, this is what they got. I’m open to any suggestions you have for improvements.

John

What exactly were you expecting? Three laps and a crash?

John

If you found that a dull race, what exactly is your definition of a good one? I am a huge critic of Cup racing and I found that race to be exciting from start to finish. Maybe you should join half of Nascar Nation and watch the SEC for the rest of the fall. Was the Indy Car race more compelling for you? I swapped during the commercials…it was not. How about the F1 race in the morning? Well, maybe…but only because of the changing weather.
But you are entitled to your opinion…as am I. In this case, your position confuses me.

gbvette

How did you swap between the Cup race and Indy Car race during commercials, when the Cup race was Saturday night, and Indy Car raced Sunday?

Echo

Lmao 👍👍

Bill H

The Indycar race was about as exciting as watching paint dry. No matter how excitedly the announcers are screaming, watching a car saving fuel is just not all that exciting.

Old School

NBC should ignore Bubba going forward since he wouldn’t play their drama buildup hype game.

WJW Motorsports

Re: Bubba. Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick…….

gbvette

The best thing about this past weekend’s USA’s coverage of the finish of the Xfinity race Friday night. As the winner Allgaier took the checkered flag, and cars wrecked behind him, instead of showing his crew jumping up and down on pit road, we saw the rest of the top finishers cross the line, as well as the wreck. Only then did they cup away to the crew. This is the way every network should cover the finish of race. Just because the leader crossed the line finish line it doesn’t mean the race is over. There are always more cars left on track racing for position, and we should be able to see how they ALL finish!

sb

AMEN!

DoninAjax

Whoever OKed that is no longer with the network anymore and has been replaced with someone who knows what the network wants to show after the winner crosses the line.

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