Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Fixes Some Daytona Issues, Nails Finish

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from Sunday’s (Feb. 25) race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Last year’s event had 20 lead changes and wasn’t all that exciting. It was a lot like Saturday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ Fr8 208. That is not what we had.

Sunday’s race will be remembered best for the finish between Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney. FOX brought its A-game for it.

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Yes, we haven’t had a finish like this in many years. In the 35 years that I’ve been watching NASCAR, you could realistically count three-wide finishes for the win on one hand. Examples would include Ron Bouchard winning at Talladega Superspeedway in 1981 and the time that Todd Bodine stole a win at Rockingham Speedway in 1995.

The biggest takeaway that I had from Sunday was that it was clean-up day. Remember the whole mess about whether William Byron or Alex Bowman was leading when the final caution flew and FOX seemingly did nothing to help viewers out?

That was alleviated on Sunday. Suarez was credited as the leader during the final yellow of the race and FOX used the same tech that it used when Michael McDowell was declared the winner of the Daytona 500 in 2021.

Probably the worst coverage on Sunday was of the big wreck on the second lap of the race. While the clip NASCAR posted to its YouTube channel starts with likely the best shot of the incident, it took quite a while for FOX to get there.

While only one driver (Josh Williams) was eliminated from the race due to the crash, many drivers had their races completely ruined. Some drivers, like Bubba Wallace and Chase Elliott, got away from the wreck with minimal damage. Others were off the pace from then on. Tyler Reddick ended up 17 laps down. Bowman was five laps down.

Compared to the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, there was much less to gripe about. That said, I don’t think FOX did the best job in relaying information about penalties. The green flag stops Sunday reminded me of what I’ve seen in the Trucks previously with a bunch of drivers getting penalized.

The Byron-McDowell incident was also a headscratcher. Very surprising that it didn’t draw a caution knowing that McDowell ended up in the wall. Then again, NASCAR didn’t want to throw the yellow in the middle of stops and screw up the race.

I think there was some kind of technical issue around lap 171. Mike Joy just dropped out of the broadcast for a few laps and I don’t think that it was planned. It sounded incredibly awkward as Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer continued their commentary as if they were reacting to what Joy was saying even though we couldn’t hear him.

Todd Gilliland led the most laps Sunday (58), but ended up in nowhere land after having an issue late. Joy described it as a stop for two tires that completely ruined his race. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to elaborate on what truly happened. Luckily, Gilliland described what happened after the race.

Last week, I didn’t get a chance to talk about the idea of FOX doing a Crank It Up segment during a round of stops under yellow. It did the same thing Sunday during the stops after the end of stage one. I think it’s a terrible idea. When a round of stops is occurring, usually, there’s a lot of information that needs to be conveyed. Maybe it’s a little less at a superspeedway than it would be next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it’s still a sizable amount.

The whole setup comes off as weird. I would greatly prefer that FOX not do that. You can put your Crank It Up segments under green like it did with the second one on lap 226.

Post-race coverage was fairly thin since the race went long by over a half hour. Viewers got interviews with the top-four finishers (Suarez, Blaney, Busch and Austin Cindric before FOX left Atlanta to air Next Level Chef. Compared to some of the coverage that we got in Daytona, it’s a little more than I expected, given the circumstances.

Pre-race coverage was squarely based around looking back at Daytona. There were two separate pieces, one with Byron (along with Rick Hendrick) and one with Joey Logano. Logano’s piece also saw him refer to Atlanta as a “confused racetrack.” That was an interesting way to describe it.

There are also a couple of new weekly features that debuted Sunday. One will have crew members introducing themselves to viewers in the latest way for fans to get to know the athletes going over the wall on pit road. This weekend Byron’s crew introduced themselves. All in all, not a bad idea. It’s not intrusive at all and these crew members play a huge role in races these days.

The other new feature is called “Tailgate Kings.” Bowyer is going to head into the campgrounds to find the best camping setups in the infield or outside of the tracks. He’ll also chat with the campers, perhaps consume some food and/or drink and generally be a friendly face.

This kind of piece truly fits Bowyer because it fits in with the kind of person that Bowyer is. He is a laid-back kind of person who would be at home in any of the campsites featured on the broadcast. A man of the people, if you will. It seemed like he was enjoying himself.

Overall, FOX was better in Atlanta than it was in Daytona. It still needs to ditch Crank It Up under yellow though. Being comprehensive hasn’t been a big thing so far since we’ve been superspeedway racing, but that’s going to be a topic of discussion for Las Vegas. It has to be cognizant of that.

That’s all for this week. NASCAR teams are traveling to Las Vegas for the third straight tripleheader to start the season. This time, the Truck Series races Friday night, the NASCAR Xfinity Series Saturday and the NASCAR Cup Series Sunday. Meanwhile, both Formula 1 and the FIA World Endurance Championship will both start its seasons in the Middle East this weekend. Formula 1 teams are in Bahrain, while the WEC is in Qatar. TV listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Las Vegas in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will cover Saturday’s NXS Raptor King of Tough 250.

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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Jason Bashline

Where is the critics annex articles?

WJW Motorsports

I think confused is a perfect description for AMS and NASCAR in general.

KU

Phil,
I enjoyed their coverage of Atlanta much better than Daytona. I liked the second Crank It Up more than the all of the previous ones. It use to be just the noise of the cars screaming by the cameras, which was cool. But listening to the spotters from various drivers was much more engaging.

Though slow on the things you mentioned, they quickly pounced on the finish line showing who really won. From the one shot it looked like Blaney, but the finish line camera it was clear (ok the cars were blurred). I did want to know if that is the “high speed” camera Joy referred to that NASCAR uses, if not it would have been interesting to see those pictures.

Kevin Harvick is really rocking in the booth after two races. His addition really showed at Atlanta.

Brian

Better yet ditch Crank it up altogther. It does nothing to enhance the broadcast and has essentially, IMHO, been lamed since it debuted back in 2001 or whenever it was.
IF it is to give the announcers a little break then just say something like enjoy the sites and sounds of ….. and then stay quiet.

Also annoying is coming and going from these features and commercials with these full screen “announcements”. Takes away from the broadcast.

Bill W.

The only time i like crank it up is during the truck race ,then i don’t have to listen to Waltrip run his mouth.

CCColorado

I usually would agree with the Waltrip comment, but for whatever reason, this week I kind of liked him and d info Phil this broadcast. Jamie is a Pro, as always, so no change there.
Also agree with Phil’s comment on Crank it Up…. IF they must do it, please during some real racing… and it barely works for me then. Fox is so quick with the gimmicks, thank goodness Digger s gone.
Harvick is really giving us good info on the Next Gen car, and is fitting in really well.

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