Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Improves in Talladega, Strange Choices Remain

Talladega Superspeedway is known for a number of things.

Tight racing, high speeds and shenanigans. Both on and off the track. The GEICO 500 race weekend provided plenty of both.

As we know, last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway was not a good time for FOX Sports. The AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 broadcast could be best described as atrocious with missed important aspects of the race and just bizarre antics.

My hope going into Sunday (April 21) was that the broadcast would be better.

Thankfully, it was. Then again, we are talking about Talladega. Normally, it’s pretty hard to screw up Talladega.

That said, I had some issues, most notably with the last-lap wreck coming to the finish.

See also
Michael McDowell Spins from Lead, Corey LaJoie Flips in Last-Lap Talladega Calamity

We now know that Corey LaJoie fully rolled his No. 7 Gainbridge Spire Motorsports Chevrolet over in the crash. You couldn’t tell that in the live shots of the wreck due to the smoke.

It seemed like it was a long time before it was acknowledged on the broadcast, something like seven minutes. I didn’t do this when the broadcast was live, but I went back and timed it with my iPhone’s stopwatch function.

Doing that, I determined that it was nearly two and a half minutes before Clint Bowyer referenced a car (LaJoie’s) on its side. The clock continued and it was nearly eight minutes before we saw definitive proof of LaJoie’s lazy roll.

That’s too long.

Knowing that everyone got out of their cars on their own and walked away, that could have been quicker.

There were some strange things on the broadcast. For instance, FOX had Jim Gaffigan in a bed surrounded by food, talking about Talladega during pre-race coverage.

This was puzzling.

There was some good content on NASCAR RaceDay to be had.

Josh Sims had a good piece on the importance of spotters at tracks like Talladega.

To that degree, he talked with Tab Boyd and TJ Majors about their roles in superspeedway races, which differ significantly from a regular race. We also heard from Joey Logano and Ross Chastain for the drivers’ view. I thought it was quite educational.

Kevin Harvick was apparently pretty busy in the days leading up to Talladega as he was in multiple features on the show. In one piece, he went to what appeared to be a TopGolf facility (can’t say for sure) and interviewed Joe Gibbs Racing’s drivers. The topics here were more or less what you expect for 2024 (is this the year for JGR, taking the fight to Hendrick Motorsports, etc.). There was also an interesting story from Ty Gibbs about his late father Coy getting apoplectic about Ty wrecking a kid in a BMX race.

Harvick also sat down with Chase Elliott to talk about returning to victory lane for the first time since 2022 and how he has changed as a racer this year. It seemed kind of strange to hear a NASCAR Cup Series champion talk about being pushed around on the track like a rookie, but that’s what we got out of Elliott here. Very unexpected. Apparently, Elliott has made some changes in his on-track aggression this year to prevent that.

Also, as noted on the Texas broadcast, he went to the Dawsonville Pool Room and the siren was wound up. You’d think that by now, the Pool Room would have a better way to start that up that doesn’t involve someone’s car battery.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Chase Elliott Takes Hooters Back to Victory Lane

If you watched the Daytona 500, then you saw the entire field intentionally slowing down to save fuel. Back in February, I talked about the slow downs and how the booth didn’t really notice at first.

You saw the same thing on Sunday. There are times when people say that you wouldn’t notice if the cars were slowed down. I’m probably more attuned to this than most people, but it’s really noticeable. They were going slow enough that they were audibly slower than normal.

The whole idea behind it is unchanged from February. They’re trying to save fuel to try to skip a pit stop.

This isn’t April 2000.

You can’t go 63 laps on a tank of fuel (seriously, the idea of doing a 500-mile race at Talladega on two pit stops was a consideration back then). What the teams were trying to do here was impossible. The practice also really angers the fans. They’re not blind.

There was a fair amount of anger on the internet (including in replies to a message we posted in the Community tab on our YouTube page) about the placement of commercial breaks. That is something that is outside of my control. I don’t write about it because I can’t do anything about it. The breaks are more or less set in advance, including the timing. Yes, I don’t want a side-by-side commercial with six laps to go in a stage.

In addition to the national breaks, FOX has local break responsibilities (always full-screen) as well. The hope is that you don’t miss too much when they happen. That said, roughly 15 of the 73 lead changes on Sunday did occur during breaks.

With the race being cleaner than we’ve seen in recent years, there was actually quite a lot of time for post-race coverage. Viewers got the aforementioned crash coverage, but not that many driver interviews.

See also
The Underdog House: One Driver's Loss Is an Underdog's Gain at Talladega

We did get an interview with winning team owner Michael Jordan in victory lane. That was pretty cool. Apparently, getting an interview with Jordan is quite the coup since he doesn’t really talk all that much these days. He’s known to have a very tight inner circle, which Denny Hamlin is in.

Overall, Sunday’s broadcast was much better than what we got in Texas. That was the bare minimum that I wanted to see. Beyond that, the field rarely separated much, so it was fairly easy to cover storylines. You got to see drivers such as BJ McLeod get coverage that they wouldn’t normally get.

I would have liked to see the broadcasters get to the bottom of some issues a little quicker. I also would have liked to see NASCAR get on the weepers more. Before his flip, LaJoie spun out on weepers exiting pit road. That should never happen. Finally, I’d like a more inclusive amount of post-race coverage. The driver interviews were fairly minimal for the 25 minutes of post-race coverage.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, Cup and the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be at Dover Motor Speedway for their only visit of the year. They’ll be joined by the ARCA Menards Series in a conjunction race with the ARCA Menards Series East. The NTT IndyCar Series will be in Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park as well. TV listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Cup and Xfinity races from Dover in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will cover the Ag-Pro 300 for the Xfinity Series.

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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Bill H

We no longer win races by driving fast, we win races by using less fuel. In both of this yeatr’s Indycar races, the announcers’ talk was dominated by saving fuel. In both superspeedway races in NASCAR, talk of saving fuel dominates.

Somebody needs to explain You cannot go a full segment without a pit stop, so five pit stops are mandated. Or more depending on cautions. Saving fuel for cautions,something that might not happen, is absurd, and since you cannot possibly save enough to pit less than five times, why are we endlessly talking about saving fuel.

I’m not spending time and money to watch a bunch of idiots driving at below top speed to save fuel. Anyone who calls that racing…

4-wide

“pretty cool” on getting a Michael Jordan interview. All you need to know about this critic

CCColorado

Somewhat disagree here … while it did seem a bit of “star struck reporter minute” … it is true MJ doesn’t do a lot of media stuff, so it was good to get some live response. And he’s been at lots more races than I thought he would.
Also… love the Josh Simms mention. He’s, along with Jamie Mac, are the shinning stars of Fox. Both speak very well, have good insights , and seem to NOT have an agenda.
Very refreshing.
And to Bills post… agree.. fuel races are Not races, just parades… kinda like F1… boo!

Steve

I was dumbfounded by how little coverage Erik Jones got when he went head on into the wall. (It happened at Daytona too. Different driver). All the focus was on Hamlin, even though he never even hit the wall. Turns out Jones was injured and they completely ignored it. Waiting that long to show Lajoie’s flip as Phil mentioned is also inexcusable. If FOX is only going to care about certain drivers/teams, I probably won’t care to watch too many more of these races. Rather not watch at all then to get frustrated with the coverage week after week.

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