Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Martinsville Was a Hendrick Celebration

For many of us at Frontstretch, Martinsville Speedway is a favorite.

It’s an old-school place where aerodynamics don’t matter as much and driver skill comes to play.

On Sunday (April 7), there was a celebration of sorts. 40 years ago, Hendrick Motorsports, then known as All-Star Racing, came within a whisker of shutting down due to lack of sponsorship and funding. Then, Geoff Bodine won and the team got Northwestern Bank as a sponsor. The rest is history.

Needless to say, you saw a lot of Hendrick Motorsports coverage this past weekend. Michael Waltrip spent the race over in its hospitality area, which was outside of turn 2, interviewing people associated with the team. Rick Hendrick, who wasn’t in Martinsville due to a recent knee replacement surgery, did a sit-down interview with Chris Myers (additional clips from the interview aired under green during the race). Jeff Gordon narrated a feature on the history of the team.

See also
Hendrick Motorsports Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Historic 1-2-3 Finish

That doesn’t even include the prodigious coverage of the team during Sunday’s race and all the discussion about the team’s history on the broadcast. In other words, we’re talking overkill here.

In my notes, I only noted that the Hendrick coverage was a bit much around lap 370. It was starting to get to me well before that. Sunday’s broadcast came off like a Hendrick benefit. That kind of stuff drives me nuts.

The fact that the race ended in a Hendrick podium sweep made it all the better for FOX. The only thing that would have made it better for them would have been for Hendrick to be in attendance (he was supposed to drive the pace car prior to the race, but the surgery prohibited him from doing so).

Now, the broadcast wasn’t fully dedicated to HMS. During pre-race, Mike Joy went to what appeared to be a nondescript warehouse in Martinsville. Inside was a treasure trove of artifacts relating to the career of Buddy Arrington, who lived and raced out of Martinsville.

Some of the artifacts, including the Chrysler Imperial, were previously on display at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame outside of Talladega Superspeedway (I could tell since the information card is similar to what they had next to cars there before the museum was renovated). While it doesn’t appear to be open to the public, it was an interesting sight to see.

Also of note, Joy can really make viewers wait for things to pay off. On Saturday, he talked about the first grandfather clock that was awarded at Martinsville during practice coverage and what happened to it. That was not paid off until there were 25 laps to go in the race Sunday (apparently, Fred Lorenzen’s clock from 1963 is now in the home of Ken Ragan).

Joy has been around long enough that he’s a legend in his own right in motorsports. Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are admittedly amazed at what he comes up with. While a good chunk of that is in his brain, he has the advantage of decades’ worth of notes in his office that he can go back and consult on his own time.

Aside from the Hendrick marathon, Sunday was supposed to be the big test for the short track package. However, with all the Hendrick coverage, it really wasn’t mentioned all that much on the broadcast.

Racing-wise, Sunday’s race was nearly identical to what we had last year before the changes were made. It was extremely hard to pass. Race winner William Byron was the only top-five finisher who didn’t start in the top 10. Overall passing stats were nearly identical to last year.

That argues that the new rules did next to nothing to improve the on-track product. Bowyer stated on-air both Saturday and Sunday that he wishes that NASCAR could have come up with a way to force the teams to go without shifting. Doing that would require momentum and braking to play a bigger role.

I know that it’s possible to come up with gear ratios that would force the shifting to stop. NASCAR managed to more or less do that at Pocono Raceway when it mandated a 1.28:1 third-gear ratio in the Car of Tomorrow era. Obviously, the transaxle is different than the older Jerico transmissions, but I think it’s doable. Regardless, it’s not good when one of FOX Sports’ analysts is essentially poo-pooing the package on live television during the race.

See also
Waid's World: The Tale of a Dysfunctional Team & Its Secret Weapon

The race ultimately ended ahead of schedule, so there was quite a bit of time for post-race coverage. In that time, FS1 had interviews with six drivers, four of which from HMS. Hendrick also called into the post-race show from his home in order to give his input.

There was also an incident coming to the white flag involving Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala and others. It was referenced audibly on the broadcast live, but no pictures were shown. There were more than 20 minutes of post-race coverage, and no footage of the incident was shown. I have no idea why FS1 chose to do this. There was time to show that.

What did it look like? A little like this, taken from the dash camera in Noah Gragson’s car that was available on NASCAR.com’s NASCAR Drive.

Apparently, Carson Hocevar went three-wide into turn 3 and bashed his way forward, causing the incident. I don’t doubt that there were some unhappy people after that move.

Overall, this was not a particularly exciting race to watch. The Next Gen car on a short track suffers from a lot of the same issues that the COT had when it debuted with the addition of substantial grip. There was some decent racing for position Sunday that FS1 showed, but not much.

To be honest, this probably was a better race in person than on TV due to the high Hendrick focus. That was distracting, and I hope FOX Sports doesn’t do that again.

Sunday was also FOX Sports 1’s first Cup race broadcast of 2024. You did see some differences. There was less pre-race coverage on NASCAR RaceDay, which only amplified the Hendrick coverage even more. I thought that the differences were going to be starker than they were.

DUDE Wipes 250

Saturday night saw the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Martinsville. This race was very different as compared to the Cup race. It was easier to pass, and drivers just don’t have the grip that the Cup cars do.

Coverage-wise, something was missing Saturday night: Emotion. Take the whole mess at the start of stage two that was triggered when Brandon Jones missed a shift for example.

There was just nothing here from Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric. It’s one thing to do that if you’re sitting in your basement watching the race on TV. It’s a whole ‘nother thing when you’re in the broadcast booth. They have to bring more emotion than that.

This wreck also affected a lot of contenders. Austin Hill, who entered the race just 10 points out of the standings lead, was eliminated here. So was AJ Allmendinger. You had good teams involved here.

I will state that Cindric picked up the missed shift quickly on the broadcast. Adam Alexander … not so much. It seemed like it took him three minutes or more to come to the same conclusion after multiple replays.

The end of the race had more of the last-lap stupidity that hurt the Cup broadcast. Here, Riley Herbst crashed on the final lap in turn 1. The wreck didn’t make the broadcast live, but since the crash brought out the yellow and ended the race early, FS1 showed Herbst’s car against the wall.

There was a replay shown where we saw that Herbst spun on his own without contact. Then it cut away almost immediately just as Ryan Ellis was coming onto the scene to slam into the No. 98. When I saw that, I thought, “Oh snap!” The broadcast just wrote it off. That was ridiculous.

Frontstretch‘s own Joy Tomlinson agreed in Xfinity Breakdown Sunday morning.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Aric Almirola Finds Redemption at Martinsville

Once again, we’re stuck with a situation where we have to rely on random chaps with cell phones to be able to figure out what happens in an incident. This is the only sport where this happens with events on the playing field.

I get that the broadcast was running long. 15 seconds isn’t going to kill you. Just get it right, please.

Needless to say, Alpha Prime Racing co-owner Tommy Joe Martins was pretty angry that Ellis got cleaned out by Anthony Alfredo there. I don’t blame him.

Since the race ran long, post-race coverage was pretty brief. Viewers heard from race winner Aric Almirola, along with points leader Chandler Smith and Sam Mayer in addition to the aforementioned cut-off wreck replay.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, NASCAR has another tripleheader, this time at Texas Motor Speedway. Away from NASCAR, you have the European Le Mans Series season starting this weekend in Barcelona. TV listings can be found here.

I will be in Texas to cover the action for Frontstretch. Despite that fact, I’ll still have a critique of Sunday’s broadcast of the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday.

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.

13 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
sb

Fox has apparently decided to do away with any sort of ‘through the field’, or coverage of any racing beyond the top 15 cars. Lovely.

Jill P

Every time you think you’ve seen the worst telecast ever, they seem to outdo themselves the next week.

wildcatsfan2016

Yep, no thru the field, bad camera work and the pylon is impossible to read on tv. I have to get up and get close to see what’s going on.

4-wide

This has turned into a group therapy of Fox bashing.

Bill B

Hey, they earned it.

DoninAjax

If you believe these telecasts are worth watching you haven’t been watching long enough to know the difference.

Kevin in SoCal

And in July it will turn into NBC bashing. I think Fox is better.

Bill W.

My biggest problem with Fox other than Mikey is to much in car and bumper cameras. People in the booth think it wonderful, so let them see that fed and let us see the race.

Old School

I think those in-car cameras are sponsored and probably have a definite amount of exposure time. It becomes even more evident when they are showing a car in 20 something place for two or three laps.

gbvette62

My guess is they didn’t show the Grala, Cindric, et al incident at the end because they didn’t have any footage to show. First off it didn’t seem like they had enough cameras to cover the race, and secondly at the end they probably had what few cameras they did have all focused on the Hendrick cars, Hendrick pit crews and Hendrick employees in the stands.

The whole race I had the feeling FS1 didn’t have enough cameras to cover the race. Even though most of the cautions originated in turn 4, the only camera shots they ever had seemed to be from turn 1, looking down the track toward turn 4. It’s the shortest track on the schedule and yet FS1 seemed to struggle to find shots of most of what went on on track, at least giving me the feeling they didn’t have enough cameras.

Showing the winning pit crew jump up and down on pit road has always been more important to all the networks, than showing what happened on track after the winner crosses the line. Now when you add the need to show the winning team’s employees in the stands too (as FS1 seemed to think was necessary), that limits the already limited number of cameras available.

CCColorado

Agree 100% with Tommy Joe Martin!
The degrading of all things NASCAR, especially the lack of any kind of oversight regarding these end of race demolition derby’s by less than skilled drivers is appalling.
Park the offenders for a race, for crying out loud! Show some backbone, show them who’s boss, because they think they are.
I hated the Bill France Jr. days for a few reasons, mostly favoritisms, but he had it right when he hauled drivers, crew chiefs and all into the Big Red Truck and chewed their butts.
Start with Carson Hocevar, who was actually having a decent rookie year until Sunday’s crashfest.

DoninAjax

A few of them need to have a “talk” with Jimmy Spencer.

wildcatsfan2016

ha yeah. NASCAR suspended him for his talk with KuBu. I know it’s not PC but I thought Spencer was justified. The race that he returned from suspension, my family and I were in the stands. Spencer got the LOUDEST cheer from the fans.

Share via