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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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