Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX is Narrow-Minded in Austin

Last weekend, NASCAR’s national-level series traveled to Circuit of the Americas.

Down there, it was quite nice, if a bit windy.

Here in Upstate New York, it was rather miserable.

What was originally forecast as about an inch of snow along with rain and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30s ended up being about a half-inch of freezing rain followed by six inches of snow.

As a result, my power got knocked out right at the beginning of the final stage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday (March 23), leaving us in the dark for 21 hours. Not fun when the temperatures dipped below 20 degrees. I would have preferred 20 inches of snow to freezing rain.

See also
Waid's World: Richmond 1986: Wild Finish Leads to Separate Paths for 2 Drivers

As of this writing, most of the snow and ice has melted. I don’t want to deal with temperatures in the 40s inside my own house.

The only reason I was able to watch most of the races last weekend was through my cell phone and the aid of one portable battery. That allowed my phone to last until the power came back on in the middle of the NTT IndyCar Series’ exhibition at The Thermal Club on Sunday.

Everything was back to normal by the time the NASCAR Cup Series ventured onto the road course Sunday for 68 laps of action. Except for the wind. That might have been a bit much for fans, but likely didn’t affect the action all that much.

Before the race, there were two notable features. One saw Kevin Harvick sit down with Denny Hamlin and discuss his victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, what he thought about the race and working with crew chief Chris Gabehart.

Overall, this was an interesting piece, but it was really nothing more than a long advertisement for Kevin Harvick’s Happy Hour, the bi-weekly podcast that Harvick co-hosts with Kaitlyn Vincie and Dylan “Mamba” Smith.

While I get the podcast advertising, this is a good way to give viewers the full treatment of these sit-down interviews. On his appearance on Dinner With Racers, the late Robin Miller lamented just how much footage for features ends up on the cutting room floor. He specifically mentioned a sit-down that he did with AJ Foyt for NBC Sports that amounted to maybe a minute and change on-air was cobbled together from more than an hour of footage. Miller apparently begged NBC Sports to run the unabridged version on its website or YouTube, but it declined.

The other interesting piece saw Clint Bowyer introduce viewers to Shane van Gisbergen, who was making his first Cup start of the year.

We learn about his origins in sprint car racing back in his native New Zealand, then the move to what is now the Repco Supercars Championship. He joined the series in the middle of the 2007 season for Team Kiwi Racing, then moved to Stone Brothers Racing (now Erebus Motorsport, which has a relationship with Richard Childress Racing) as noted in the piece.

I was previously aware of a decent chunk of van Gisbergen’s racing past prior to this, but I recognize that a lot of fans out there don’t know much about the man. Having success in NASCAR doesn’t necessarily surprise me since he’s been a winner in darn near everything he’s ever driven.

See also
Only Yesterday: A Look at Tracks Shared by Formula 1 & NASCAR

Harvick provoked a moment of confusion in the broadcast booth on lap 26 due to his word usage. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kamui Kobayashi collided in turn 8 and spun. Harvick then referred to it as a “kerfuffle.”

The word usage befuddled Bowyer completely.

Mike Joy recalled the late Ken Squier using it at some point, which I have no doubt that he did. I have no issue with Harvick expanding his vocabulary. I’ve found that the term kerfuffle is used quite a bit in commentary of sports car races. Then again, quite a few of those races are called by John Hindhaugh, who you might know as the play-by-play voice of IMSA Radio.

When this moment occurred, I thought of one character in particular. Bull Shannon from the original version of Night Court, played by the late Richard Moll. In the very first episode of the show, Bull refers to the way that Judge Stone (Harry Anderson) was assigned to the court as their judge by the outgoing mayor of New York City as being “mercurial.”

As an adjective, this would have meant that Bull found that the former mayor’s actions were volatile or unpredictable. Of note, this was before the writers made Bull’s character into a buffoon, so this previous statement is not an insult to Harvick.

Bull’s explanation for that is that he picks a word at random from the dictionary and tries to use it in everyday conversation. While that is not necessarily what Harvick is doing, it does make for a change of pace on broadcasts. It’s not always going to trend on social media like the time he used the term “lit,” but it makes things livelier.

Incident-wise, there were a fair amount of spins, crinkles and moments of contact Sunday. FOX didn’t do the best job of showing them. Likely the best example of this came with four laps to go when Noah Gragson spun all but in front of William Byron exiting turn 8. The broadcast all but ignored it despite the smoke being visible.

I get it, it was all about Byron being chased down by Ty Gibbs and Christopher Bell at the time, but that could have been a real thing for the leaders and it was written off completely. That frustrated me.

Earlier on, there was an incident shortly after the final restart exiting turn 11 involving Ryan Preece, Daniel Hemric and Josh Berry. Viewers saw Preece spun out, but we had no idea what happened. No replays were shown at the time, but we did know that Preece and Hemric were forced to make unscheduled pit stops that dropped them off the lead lap.

It was something like 20-25 laps before we saw any idea of what happened. They got hooked together, resulting in Preece spinning and Berry popping a wheelie. I have no idea why FOX chose not to show replays of this closer to when the accident occurred.

See also
Monday Morning Pit Box: Slow Stops, Speeding Penalties Hamper Contenders at COTA

As far as racing on-track goes, there was some action for position that we got to see, but I’m pretty sure that there was a lot more that we didn’t get to see. While the track isn’t too long for NASCAR (despite what some fans will say), it might be too long for FOX to show the action appropriately. As a result, the final product looks more boring than it actually was.

The race ended up being by far the quickest of the four Cup races at COTA to this point. As a result, I guess I expected a little more post-race coverage. Viewers got post-race interviews with the top-five finishers and Jeff Gordon before leaving Texas for a repeat of Next Level Chef.

Overall, COTA is not the easiest place to broadcast a race from. Some compromises are made. However, there wasn’t as much racing shown to viewers as there could have been. The final product looking dull is rather dangerous these days.

That said, this ended up being a strategy race. I know that a lot of fans don’t like strategy races, but those have their place in NASCAR. FOX did a good job laying out the strategies and what would need to be done all day. Larry McReynolds did a great job.

FOX did not do a great job of showing how the tires wore during the race. It made everyone think that tires didn’t mean anything during runs. Then Bell had fresher tires for the final run and nearly ran down Byron from 12 seconds behind. No one saw that coming. I also would have liked to see that wheel off Martin Truex Jr.’s car that broke on the first lap. That struck me as odd and I would have liked to be able to see what that means.

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.

FOX Sports
NBC Sports

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

7 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
DoninAjax

I read the title and I have questions: when has FOX never been “narrow-minded? Or NBC? And what makes anyone think Disney and Amazon will be different?

Last edited 18 days ago by DoninAjax
Tom B

Phil,
Another great couch potato description of the race and broadcast.

sb

Great weather report, interesting vocabulary lesson. I use the word kerfuffle often. Like the way it sounds. Could have used less of the above and more of the excellent commentary on the racing.

Kevin in SoCal

Guess I’ll have to update my vocabulary, because I thought the word was “kurfluffle” with an extra L.

Man, I miss Robin Miller, and also Dave Despain.

John

Narrow-minded? Maybe you didn’t watch the same race that I did. The announcers talked more about tires than they did any other aspect of the race.

Are you still mad about your power being out for a time?

gbvette

I posted a similar comment about the broadcast in the COTA “snoozer” article, blaming the coverage, not the race. So much goes on in a Cup race and all either NBC or Fox ever want to cover is the top ten. Indycar and Formula one race at COTA and other tracks just as long and manage to cover all the on track action, often from multiple angles. Why is it so much harder with a Cup race?

Old School

They wasted time showing a sponsor’s in-car advertising cam which was in 20th place and no one near. The director doesn’t care where the racing is going on. Also they won’t leave the camera focused on the finish line and feel the need to show the crew doing their victory dance which could be delayed to post race.

Share via