Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Wednesday: Daytona 500 Brings Same Issues From 2023

The Daytona 500 is by far the most important race of the year for NASCAR and especially FOX Sports.

The tone set in Daytona can continue through the entire first half of the season. It’s one of the reasons why the weather issues are so devastating for NASCAR. Chances are, it’s going to snowball for the next couple of months, potentially lowering the NASCAR Cup Series’ reach. Remember, not everyone is a diehard fan.

The postponement came early, before I even got out of bed. By the time I was enjoying my Honey Nut Cheerios, the plan was to run at 4 p.m. ET Monday, Feb. 19.

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As you know, Monday’s race will probably be best remembered for two things. The first is the way the race ended, with Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric colliding and NASCAR’s button-press determining the winner.

I hate when this happens. The angry fans trot out conspiracy theories, and seemingly no one other than Hendrick Motorsports (in this case) ends up happy with the outcome. A much messier version of what we saw Monday occurred in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season opener in 2005 when Bobby Hamilton was declared the winner over Jimmy Spencer.

The same procedure that ultimately gave Hamilton the win in 2005 was used to give William Byron the win Monday. It doesn’t appear that they deviated from using video evidence to determine the finishing order. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a timestamp of when the caution came out on-air. NASCAR posted this picture from the moment of caution after the race.

However, based on previous occasions, it seemed like FOX didn’t do quite as much. In 2021, a big wreck ended the race early. FOX showed this computer graphic that showed the positioning of the leaders at the moment of caution.

At the time, I made reference to the move in my critique, but didn’t really give an opinion of it. Looking back, this was a good move. Heck, if you have to have all this Ghost cam stuff and GPS technology, why not use it for something like this? I wish we had it Monday.

The other notable thing is that everyone intentionally ran at half-throttle for a good chunk of stage one due to the placement of the first caution. The result was some of the slowest racing for the NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway that has been seen since the late 1960s.

This was bizarre to watch, and the booth really didn’t make that much of a mention of it. Then, they made note of AJ Allmendinger running faster by himself than the entire pack. 174 mph for a lead draft is really, really weird. It’s not all that much faster than the pack in NASCAR Goody’s Dash races at Daytona in the late 1990s. I was thinking of the on-track scenes in Stroker Ace while watching Monday. That, and the notion that drivers like Christopher Bell should have just run hard from the restart because what they were trying to concoct wasn’t feasible.

Tech-wise, the drivers’ eye cameras were conspicuously absent on Monday. While it wasn’t explicitly stated on the broadcast, I wouldn’t be surprised if the enhanced headrests that are now in use (and discussed significantly last week) more or less precluded their usage. You lose some immersion from that, but viewers won’t get as dizzy.

The Gyro cam was back on the broadcast after a couple of years away though. That is something that I find to be a bit of a gimmick. Over the years, the information given to fans is that the camera moves with the angle of the track. Many of my colleagues don’t really agree with this and believe that an operator in the TV compound with a joystick controls them. Such joystick controls are not out of the ordinary for in-car cameras and the robotic cameras next to the track. I cannot speak to whether the pitch of the Gyro cam is controlled in such a way.

One of my biggest gripes on the broadcast is something that has sadly carried over from last year. It seems that the production is still having trouble following what the commentators are saying. This was a problem as early as lap 4 when a third line was forming. Mike Joy referenced it, but there was never really a move to give any focus to it.

A couple of laps later, Brad Keselowski got into the back of John Hunter Nemechek, who slid into Harrison Burton and sparked the first crash of the day. Joy caught it right on time, but the production was slow again. They were showing the rear bumper cam on Joey Logano’s car at the time. As many of you reading this column are aware, rear bumper cams are not the best at superspeedways.

The issues with the production being off the pace are not new. Heck, it is the exact same complaint that I made about last year’s broadcast of the Daytona 500. Joy, and to a lesser extent, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, are having to work overtime to better inform the fans.

While I was writing this column, the Arkansas-Texas A&M basketball game was on ESPN. They just so happened to have Marty Smith, fresh from Daytona, as the sideline reporter. During a break in the action, Smith gave some dap to FOX’s production crew for their helmet-facing cameras. Specifically, they had one in Ryan Blaney’s car, and it showed how he would take his hands off the wheel if he was going to hit the wall.

As you may remember, in his Duel race, Blaney got caught up in the big wreck and didn’t quite get his hands off the wheel quick enough. The footage led the booth to fear that Blaney might have suffered an injury to his hands. Thankfully, this was not the case.

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The postponement made for quite the lazy Sunday. Despite that, there was still 3.5 hours of pre-race coverage. Here, viewers were treated to a number of interviews. Chris Myers went one-on-one with NASCAR President Steve Phelps in a mini-state-of-the-sport interview. Phelps teased the involvement of Canada and Mexico on the schedule in 2025, in addition to some kind of return to Southern California. He also said that discussions with a fourth manufacturer were ongoing. Essentially, it was a bunch of things for thought. What comes out of it is anyone’s guess.

Harvick more or less got thrown to the wolves for his first sit-down interview on the other side. He had to interview Kyle Busch, someone that he had beef with for a significant chunk of his career. Naturally, they made light of that during their time together.

My hope when Harvick entered the booth full time, as previously stated in my Clash critique, was that he could focus Bowyer more on the task at hand. As a result, he would be more useful. So far, that seems to be working out fine. There wasn’t any bouts of complete randomness Monday. Everyone stayed on task.

Harvick seems to be working out fairly well in the booth. Obviously, it’s still early days, but this current booth configuration actually does work well. I do believe that a more technical element in the booth is still necessary. Having Larry McReynolds in Charlotte can only do so much.

Post-race coverage was not really as substantial as I would have liked. Viewers only got interviews with Hendrick Motorsports personalities. Obviously, it makes sense to interview Byron and Alex Bowman since they finished first and second, but maybe not so much Chase Elliott, who finished 14th. I would have rather heard from Bell or Corey LaJoie.

That said, the broadcast was already running long. It was only scheduled to be on until 8 p.m. ET, and the checkered flag was after that.

Overall, FOX still has some problems to deal with in the production department. They’re just not quick on the trigger. I don’t know why we couldn’t have gotten the same treatment for the “who was ahead at the time of caution” question that we got in 2021.

That’s all for this week. This weekend, NASCAR is holding a tripleheader at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Craftsman Truck series have a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 24, while the NASCAR Cup Series races on Sunday. TV Listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch, assuming that the races run as scheduled. If changes are made, you might see this on Wednesday again. The Critic’s Annex will cover the United Rentals 300 broadcast, which saw a series of compromises, production faults and possibly questionable music choices.

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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16 Comments
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kb

So far not impressed with Kevin in the booth, time will tell. And gosh, could Clint just go away and have lunch with Dale Jr. somewhere away from the track at hand?

Dan

Bowyer the comedian, just what we need, another Michael Waltrip. Uh! Did you ever notice how Bowyer can hardly wait to get his two cents worth in when someone else is talking. Life of the party. Yeah right.

kb

Speak for yourself “WHAT WE NEED” is not “WHAT I NEED”. I know the deal with the personalities in the booth, not to my liking this paring. I think thus far Kevin is monotone and boring and Bowyer is lucky he has an afterlife in the NASCAR world, seeing his performance stats suck. By the way MW, gets on my nerves to the nth degree!

Dan

I think you miss interpreted what I wrote. “Just what we need” was written in sarcasm.

janice

i kind of figured bowyer would be a michael waltrip. i get tired of hearing him speak. i turn the volume down. i did like when i heard kevin tell bowyer something to the fact that bowyer hasn’t been in this version of the car.

DoninAjax

Ryan Blaney 197mph 8600rpm coming to end of TVTO2.

Denny Hamlin 185mph 8100rpm 40 laps to go leading outside line.

Jimmy Johnson 176 mph 7700rpm in the pack.

Bill W.

Why does Fox keep Waltrip in the booth? I watched both the truck and infinity race and he is overbearing,obnoxious and bias announcer I have ever heard. There are probably a lot more words to describe him,but i will leave it at that.

Bill B

I agree. What a putz.
How can FOX be so dedicated to him? He isn’t that great and he has been there for a loooonnngggg time. FOX has to get negative feedback on him yet they won’t kick him to the curb and try someone new.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill B
CCColorado

He must have pics / videos of Fox big wigs … wink wink
Because he is so over the top shilling for all things NASCAR!
Harvick is actually pretty good considering who he’s got to work with. Clint, party going motormouth…. oh boy!
God I miss Bob, Ned and Benny.

wildcatsfan2016

I don’t understand why he is still in the booth either. His presence annoys me so much that I find it very difficult to watch those races. When I control the remote, it’s muted & I just watch so I don’t have to hear him.

Bill B

I will say that Clint was less buffoonish that normal. Maybe Harvick being there made him more serious or maybe it’s just a first race of the season thing.
I hope it stays that way but my bet is that he’s back to being a goof next week. In fact, I think FOX wants him to be a clown.

Steven

Bill B. You’re such a bitch. Try to relax.

Bill B

Like I give a flying flock what you think. I’m not the only one here with negative comments on Waltrip and Bowyer. In fact, if you can’t handle those two being commented on negatively, you may not want to visit much because it’s been a common theme for many years.

wildcatsfan2016

I’m not a big fan of Clint’s. I wasn’t when he was a driver & he isn’t that great as an announcer. I agree with you that it is likely that he is doing partly what he’s told and partly what is his personality. I do think it’s funny that Harvick is way more sarcastic (that’s who he is) and that may be interesting for interacting with Bowyer.

boogityboogityboogity

nascar on fox sucks

Vern Gomer

Retire, Mike Joy. Promote Jamie Little to play by play. Put Larry McReynolds back in the booth, full time. Send Clint packing. Put Harvick on Pit Road.
Call & actually follow the race, The Race? Tell us about the track, the cars, the technology. STOP the dribble.
Watch Indy Car or F1. Get a Clue?
And bring back a running Pylon. There is 40 cars out there, not 20.

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