Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Texas Broadcast Brings Playoff Focus, Not Much Else

Texas Motor Speedway has been a rather troublesome track seemingly since it was built. First, you had the quad-oval and pit lane built too narrow, the dual banking setup throwing people into the wall exiting turn 4 and the water seepage issue in turns 1 and 2. That was fixed with a $150 million renovation. You had some decent years, then drainage problems came into play.

For 2017, you had the repave and reprofiling that created the current track. The PJ1 TrackBite was laid down in order to create better racing on the fresh pavement. I suppose it was okay for the first year but not so much afterward. Track officials still cannot get it off of the pavement, which creates constant issues.

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Countdown to Green was really what we’ve come to expect in recent weeks. You got a recap of what happened last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, followed by a bunch of playoff chatter. While yes, the playoffs matter at this point of the season, that is still not why I or other race fans watch these races.

Sunday’s (Sept. 24) race was shortened to 400 miles. This should not have been done. As far as I’m concerned, what we saw last year was a fluke. There were 16 cautions and a lightning delay. That race currently stands as the slowest Cup race ever run at Texas if you don’t count the marathon held over four days that was the fall race in 2020.

Likely the most memorable moment of Sunday’s race was the battle for the lead between Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace with 19 laps to go.

This was nothing more than hard racing for the lead. Admittedly, it was the kind of wreck that you usually see in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on intermediate tracks. I think that if it were 85 degrees Sunday in Fort Worth, that might not have happened. Had Larson not wrecked, he probably would have gotten the lead since Wallace likely would have gone up the hill. That happened anyway, but NASCAR threw the caution before he lost the lead on the track.

The coverage here was pretty good. It was right to the point and not sensationalistic. After the race, there were fans who rehashed last year’s Larson-Wallace confrontation at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That had nothing to do with this. Larson doesn’t hold anything against Wallace here. If he did, he likely would have said so.

What was true on Sunday was that it was ridiculously hot. One of the three hottest races of the last 20 years. Nothing quite like 101-degree weather with dewpoints in the 70s that really makes you want to stay inside. I’m sure those in the suites were comfortable, but the fans in the stands weren’t. Moving this race off of this weekend in 2024 is a good idea. Not really sure why it was put here in the first place, to be honest.

The broadcast noted that BJ McLeod’s cool suit broke in the opening laps of the race. When that happens, the fluid that normally flows through the coils in the shirt that cools down your core doesn’t flow. Typically, this results in the driver broiling in the car. It’s worse than racing with no cooling at all.

McLeod ended up finishing 22nd Sunday after receiving four free passes. He did not take relief. No word on how he was feeling afterward since you didn’t hear much about him after that point. I would have included some kind of social media post about this issue here so we could have an update on McLeod and how he was feeling afterward, but there really aren’t any.

Wheel issues were quite prevalent last weekend, not just on Sunday. Two separate cautions were caused Sunday by rear wheels coming off and causing wrecks, putting Austin Dillon and Todd Gilliland out of the race.

Both of the wheel issues came immediately after pit stops, which meant that the crews just didn’t get the wheel nuts tight. Unfortunately, we had no replays of either of those pit stops, so I cannot say what definitively happened there.

The issues that befell Jeb Burton on Saturday were quite different and might result in the team not being hit with penalties. There, the dust cap apparently came off, loosened his left rear wheel and then eventually broke the track bar. Jeepers. As for Dillon, he’s definitely losing crew members. Same with the Rick Ware Racing No. 51 team, but that won’t affect Gilliland since he’ll be back in his normal No. 38 on Sunday for Front Row Motorsports.

NBC Sports handled these situations Sunday like it typically does. It took a close look at the replays that showed the wheels separating from the car, made note of the circumstances and concluded that it was an unenforced error on the part of their pit crews.

Steve Letarte broke out the telestrator to show the wheel nut rolling up to the SAFER Barrier and described how loose wheels can cause a situation where wheels literally get cut in half.

Racing-wise, passing was down a bit as compared to last year. Yes, the race was shorter, as I noted above. However, there were also two fewer passes per lap as compared to last year. What did viewers see? You saw some action for position. You got to see certain drivers progress through the field like Erik Jones before he crashed out.

There were a couple of checks through the field during the broadcast, but the broadcasters were both completely focused on playoff contenders. It’s situations like this where I really want a non-playoff driver to throw a wrench into those plans. Why? As far as I’m concerned, a NASCAR race broadcast has to plan for as many potential situations as possible.

This time of year, the playoffs can be used as nothing short of a crutch. It really stinks if your favorite driver didn’t make the playoffs or already got eliminated. Just because the playoffs are going on doesn’t mean that other stories should be ignored.

If you were in the playoffs, you got a good amount of coverage. Viewers got plenty of updates on Kyle Busch’s nightmare of a situation after the first caution. Ultimately, that ended in a big crash in turn 1.

Now, there had been significant discussion of issues on Busch’s No. 8 prior to the wreck. Busch thought at first that he had a flat tire. NBC Sports used its cameras, both outside the cars and at least one roof camera on another car to check on it, but the tires seemed okay before the wreck. Unfortunately, I don’t think that was the cause of the wreck. I think he just plain lost it.

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Post-race coverage was a little less than what we’ve gotten in previous weeks since the race went a little long. Viewers got interviews with the top-four finishers (William Byron, Ross Chastain, Wallace and Christopher Bell), along with playoff contenders Larson and Ryan Blaney, who crashed out. There were also point checks and a little analysis, but not much. The broadcast was time-constrained.

Overall, I found the broadcast to be way too focused on the playoff contenders and not quite focused enough on actual racing for position. As a result, it didn’t really bring me in for much of the race. When there was good racing, I was there. NBC Sports needs to bring viewers more of the action going forward. Of course, since Talladega Superspeedway is next weekend, that shouldn’t be hard.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, both the NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be at Talladega Superspeedway for 750 miles of racing. TV listings can be found here. In the ARCA series, both the national series and ARCA Menards Series West are racing on Saturday (Sept. 30) with those broadcast listings found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Truck races from Talladega in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. Remember that the final six Cup races of 2023 will air live on NBC. The Critic’s Annex will cover Saturday’s Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Those drivers wrecked a lot on Saturday.

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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i completely agree with your comments regarding the coverage of the top 16. And I am surprised that Nascar doesn’t object to it. At a time where sponsor dollars are hard to come by, giving teams that failed to make the Playoffs zero on screen time doesn’t help their overwhelming (and faulty) narrative of “keeping the playing field level.” Although the playing field will always be tilted in the direction of the ‘key partner teams’ of each manufacturer who are the only ones that, for whatever reason, receive tire data to feed their simulations. Using a generic tire model, coupled with minimal simulator time, coupled with reduced (or zero) aero data insures that 22 teams have a huge advantage over the remaining 14….and now they get more TV time and more money. The illusion of a level playing field is just that.


38 cars are entered in the event. 26 will disappear during the telecast which will focus on the 12, and then the 8 and then the 4. It has been this way for years.

Bill B

The only way for one of the “other” cars to get coverage is to wreck one of the contender cars.


Ever since Emperor Brian’s “brilliant” idea for The Farce title began!

Kevin in SoCal

Uhh, no. You were right the first time, “its been this way for years.” As in since NASCAR has been on TV in the 80’s. The biggest story is the 2 or 3 drivers still in the championship hunt at this time of year under the old system.


There are a lot more final positions to be determined than number 1 or 1 through 4. The telecasts used to cover them but not anymore.


The broadcast used to do a “thru the field” and at least you heard a snippet of info about the majority of the cars. These days, it’s the top whatever number even on the scrolling info on TV.


Hey Phil, here’s a question for you. 66 laps under caution at Texas, that’s 99 miles right. Why did Nascar have 99 miles of caution laps !!! Is the Texas crew that inept !! A mile and a half track shouldn’t have to run 66 laps under caution. What do you think !! Saturday race was about the same. Is Nascar doing that just to get more commercials in. I think it’s worth a story, let’s see what happens the next few races.

Bill B

So, are you saying they are calling cautions that don’t need to be cautions, or are you saying that they are dragging the cautions out longer than they need to be, or both?


If I remember correctly, the Bristol night race got a .89 rating. That does not indicate to me that fans are on the edge of their seats, breathlessly waiting to see the winner of this ‘survival series’ playoff format. at least, under the old system, if the title was determined before the last race, other teams had a shot at some recognition.


the reason the races have so many caution laps is because every caution takes 5 to 7 laps because the cleanup crews are slow and the stage cautions take forever. The dual file restarts and the choose cone add extra caution laps. This is why the races are taking like an hour more than in the 1990s. If they made the races shorter, they could capture more young people, who have shorter attention spans.

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