Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: Broadcasts vs. Backmarkers

It’s no secret that there are many issues with the way NASCAR broadcasts are run, and those issues were on full display Sunday (April 7) at Martinsville Speedway.

I won’t go into a bunch of details about it, as my colleague Phil Allaway covered it pretty well in this week’s Couch Potato Tuesday. However it’s worth reiterating that we don’t need hundreds of crowd shots, unnecessarily zooming in on a car to the point where you can see the driver’s eyes and graphics that are so unbelievably incorrect you wonder who even greenlit the graphic.

There are several things that need to be fixed within a TV broadcast. Some are of higher importance than others.

Arguably one of the highest priorities NASCAR should be focusing on is the fact that drivers don’t even get TV time anymore.

See also
Couch Potato Tuesday: Martinsville Was a Hendrick Celebration

Ater the race weekend, Akinori Ogata, who made his first of four Xfinity Series starts with Joey Gase Motorsports at Martinsville on Saturday (April 6), posted a tweet that essentially questioned whether he should have shown up or not.

Ogata did not set a time in qualifying the previous day (April 5) due to transmission issues and then only went 40 laps in the race before brake issues forced him behind the wall for good.

And not a single mention was made on any broadcast.

From a personal standpoint, one has to feel so bad for Ogata. The Japanese driver is looked upon fondly by just about everyone. He’s never incited a rivalry or controversy and more often than not he’s able to stay out of trouble when he’s on the track.

From a professional standpoint, this is completely unacceptable. However, it’s not too surprising, as TV broadcasts have essentially made it impossible for those running outside the top 10 or top 15 to get any TV time.

Part of that can be blamed on the advent of stage points, only awarding the top 10 drivers at the end of a stage. This emphasizes the importance of running well, but it still doesn’t excuse the fact that there are anywhere between 35-40 drivers in the field. If we want to promote the sport, we can’t keep showing the top five for 50 laps straight.

Most of the field has one or many sponsors who are more than willing to shell out less money to a smaller team if it means their organization gets national promotion. Such was the case with Ogata, who had Kyowa-Eidemiller Precision Machining aboard his No. 35. But no meaningful TV time was given.

Yes, Ogata retired from the race after 40 laps. Yes, he wasn’t on track for qualifying. But even so much as a mention could have done wonders.

Not to mention, it’s another reason why we need full practice and qualifying back.

Think back to the days of two or three hours of practice to go along with qualifying. That was the time to talk to drivers who may not have had any shot of breaking the top 20. Not only that, but then Ogata and JGM could have found the issue in practice and he still could have gotten a qualifying lap in.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Aric Almirola Finds Redemption at Martinsville

Ogata’s not the only one with these problems. One of the more notorious issues that FOX had over the weekend was the fact that it missed last-lap entanglements in both the Xfinity and Cup Series races. The Xfinity one was quite egregious because the replay shown saw Riley Herbst spin into the turn 1 wall.

Then Ryan Ellis and Anthony Alfredo piled into Herbst’s stationary No. 98. As that happened, FOX ended the replay.

Think about that. The crash was maybe 50% over.

And they cut away to show a minimal amount of post-race coverage.

Forget who was involved for a second, that is just poor coverage all around, regardless of the drivers involved.

Ellis and Alfredo were running outside the top 10 when that happened, and while the focus was on the finish of the race (as it should’ve been), to not even provide a proper replay of what happened doesn’t do justice to the underfunded teams of Alpha Prime Racing and Our Motorsports, who now have to rely on fan videos and somewhat guess what happened to go about fixing their now-destroyed cars.

I can already hear it: “Who cares about who’s running 30th? We want to know who’s winning.”

To which, I concede and agree with that point. Obviously, racing is about winning.

But when there are 50 laps of really no change up front, why not highlight drivers who are running further back? That’s why I loved when FOX and NBC did their “Through the Field” segments. Remember those? I sure don’t anymore, because I can’t remember the last time one was completed.

See also
5 Points to Ponder: Is This It?

If there’s nothing going on for the lead, or really the top five, there’s plenty of opportunity to highlight mid-pack drivers – at least then the broadcast could be even a tad less boring.

Not to mention, there are some mid-pack drivers who find themselves running higher than they’re supposed to. Why aren’t they getting more attention? It would do their sponsors wonders, at least.

Which raises another question: why would a sponsor bother joining a team that will never be in front of a camera? That will inevitably kill off smaller teams in the long run, in a time where NASCAR already struggles to get full fields. At that point, we’ll have 10 to 15-car fields because no one else will be able to compete with sponsors.

It’s a sad reality that needs to be fixed somehow. I certainly don’t have the solution, but Ogata, Ellis, Alfredo and their sponsors – as well as anyone else in the same boat – deserve to feel like they were there.

Not to feel like they were better off just not showing up.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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sb

Eliminating any real practice is just ridiculous to me. the teams are already at the track, fans are present, why not have at least 60 minute practices? Heaven forbid you give teams a chance to improve their cars, or find problems that might keep them from competing. And the lack of any ‘through the field’ segments not only short changes the teams, but fans too. Impossible to keep track of any progress…or regress of any driver until they reach the ‘magic top 15. I don’t care to watch the pit crew celebrate before I have seen the finishing order…and not just the top 10.

Steve

Finally someone who calls out FOX for their horrible coverage. All respect to Phil, but he’s a little more diplomatic about it in his Couch Potato articles, which doesn’t always draw attention to it.

I saw the end of the Xfinity race live and was shocked at how the cameras went to something else in the middle of showing that last lap crash. Also the pile up on the front stretch, the booth apparently never looks out the window as it was right in front of them. They didn’t pick up on it until a half a lap later. Horrible.

The cup race wasn’t any better. Talking about the history of Hendrick, grandfather clocks, complete with graphics on screen (some full screen even) during green flag racing. When they did show racing, it was watching Byron circle the track by himself for 40 laps straight until the final caution. Even Larry Mac couldn’t get them back on track.

Question I have: Why do we need to see a shot of the crew celebrating live every race and not the cars crossing the line? I just don’t get it. Can’t they show the crew celebrating on a replay after the race? Its all the same thing every week anyway.

Its like their purposely trying to drive away fans, because if I was a new fan of Nascar, after watching a race on TV, it wouldn’t give me any type of incentive to watch another one let alone attend one live.

Sorry for the long rant, but watching these races every weekend is becoming utterly frustrating. This coming from someone who used to schedule their weekend around the races. That is a thing of the past because the races are so unwatchable now due to the product that is being presented.

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