Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Shows Improvement in Stale Dover

Dover Motor Speedway has changed quite a bit over the years.

When I first watched NASCAR, Dover races were 500 miles long and filled with wrecks. For example, the two Dover races in 1993 averaged over four hours and 51 minutes.

Sunday’s race wasn’t nearly that long at three hours and 20 minutes. However, it wasn’t particularly all that exciting to watch.

There were only 12 lead changes Sunday (April 28) and passing in general was pretty difficult if you weren’t in a Hendrick Motorsports car. I’m only saying that because Chase Elliott managed to charge from 29th on the grid to finish fifth. Kyle Larson almost won after starting outside of the top 20.

Everyone else seemed to struggle.

See also
Holding a Pretty Wheel: Can NASCAR Stop the Air Blocking?

Was it any different than last year’s race? Not really. The average passes per green flag lap were nearly identical to last year. There were more passes Sunday, but that’s only because there were four fewer laps under yellow this year. I just don’t recall the discussion about air blocking that we’ve seen over the past couple of days.

What I do remember is that tires were a big problem last year with numerous issues.

Unless your name is Brad Keselowski, that wasn’t much of a problem Sunday. Keselowski had multiple unwound tires and smacked the wall because of it. Viewers got a good look at the problematic tires when it happened. Had the sun not come out Sunday, it might have been a very different story.

If you look at the box score of the race, you’ll see that Ryan Preece dropped out of the race due to “Safety.”

That is a very rare reason to DNF and FOX Sports 1 was on it from the start, partially by luck. The broadcast had an in-car camera in Preece’s car and noted smoke filling the car on lap 22. I feel like if it didn’t have the camera in there, we might not have ever known about it to the degree that we did. The thought at first was that rubber was getting inside of the rockers again. You can imagine what I was thinking there since we’ve seen that a number of times since the Next Gen car debuted.

Ultimately, it was determined that rubber had melted the door foam, causing the smoke. While this was not broached on the broadcast, the situation will likely lead to another redesign in order to seal off the foam from the elements. It’s one thing to wreck, but it’s a whole different thing if you’ve done nothing and it starts burning. Left unsaid on the broadcast was what the burning of the foam could do to Preece. He would have been inhaling some nastiness in his car before he retired.

Compared to recent weeks, the NASCAR Cup Series broadcast was actually better than what we’ve seen. There weren’t any blatantly bad moments on the broadcast. Anyone reading this column can definitely point those out.

We even had a moment that elicited some chortles from me. Apparently, Dylan Smith on Kevin Harvick’s Happy Hour tries to get him to use some random words on broadcasts. I think of it as the racing equivalent of Bull on Night Court picking a word from the dictionary and using it to expand his vocabulary.

In this case, Harvick described an incident on pit road between Tyler Reddick and Corey Heim as Heim being “yeeted” by Reddick. The sheer thought of a 48-year-old using that terminology to describe a pit road incident is hilarious. And yes, I’d argue that the usage was correct.

Even though Sunday’s race took nearly three hours and 21 minutes to run, the broadcast ended ahead of schedule. As a result, viewers got quite a bit of post-race coverage. The top-eight finishers were all interviewed on the broadcast and viewers also got post-race analysis before FS1 left Dover for Charlotte.

The race on Sunday was not particularly the most exciting. It’s hard to pass at Dover and outside of the aforementioned Hendrick drivers, there wasn’t all that much movement up and down through the field. How do you make such an event exciting to watch?

You spread yourself out and show as much action as you can. I don’t believe that FOX Sports did this as much as it should have. There was likely more action available to show than the network chose to show.

I’m happy that it cleaned up some of the recent problems. However, they still have a way to go to get to where it needs to be.

BetRivers 200

Following former FOX Sports personality Dan O’Toole’s command, the 38 NASCAR Xfinity Series cars came to life for 208 miles of action. It didn’t take long for trouble to break out.

Just four laps into the race, a wreck broke out between JJ Yeley and Hailie Deegan on the frontstretch. What happened to cause this schmozzle? If you watched the broadcast, you likely wouldn’t be sure. The replays that FOX Sports used all started in progress with Yeley and Deegan having already hit the wall.

Yeley saw it very differently and point-blank blamed Dawson Cram for the crash.

He also stated that Cram couldn’t hold his line.

Cram, as you can imagine, was not happy with that.

He posted SMT data online after the race in response to fans blaming him for the wreck in order to defend himself.

Now, I’ll be honest.

This setup is not the best when you don’t have a good camera shot of the incident to determine what happened. Cram claimed that it was a racing incident while the computer footage makes it look like Yeley ran into Cram and spun himself out.

Regardless, this was not the best hour for FOX Sports in failing to provide proper context for what caused this mess. That is ultimately the broadcast’s responsibility. In this situation, we have to take Yeley’s word for it, but we don’t really have truly independent verification.

For some reason, the graphics department at FOX Sports misidentified Ryan Sieg after his car burst into flames as Matt DiBenedetto. I’m not sure what happened there, but that’s a mistake.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Ryan Truex Conquers Dover, Miles the Monster Causes Mayhem

Saturday had Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano in the broadcast booth alongside Adam Alexander. The two of them have a decent rapport together and complement each other. If we can’t get a regular lineup in the booth for Xfinity races, having these two up there is a decent option. They’re currently in their seventh season together as teammates and worked together prior to that when Blaney was driving for Wood Brothers Racing.

The action towards the end of the race with Sheldon Creed, Ryan Truex, Carson Kvapil and Austin Hill was just excellent. That was great to watch.

The post-race coverage was fairly brief due to the rain delay making everything run long. Viewers got to hear from Kvapil and Truex, but not Anthony Alfredo. That’s a shame. At least we got him during his press conference.

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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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 B

While there may have been more action on the track that FOX could have shown, there is an equal chance that there wasn’t. Dover is my “home” track and I’ve been to many races there. Often, there are long stretches of race where it’s just a conveyor belt of cars going around the track.

Unlike most tracks, passes at Dover happen quickly. Cars don’t usually ride side by side for a couple of laps as the passes take place. Instead, a pass occurs within a corner in less than 5 seconds. With that in mind, there isn’t really that much to show. Don’t get me wrong, it still would be nice to see since it’s better than watching the conveyor belt. The point is, it wouldn’t change the overall perception of the race being boring because after that 5 second pass, you’re right back to watching the conveyor belt.

wildcatsfan2016

Totally agree Bill B. I, too, have been to Dover many times and it is exactly what you described. I laid down on the seats and took a nap during one race.

janice

dover used to be my “home track” when i lived in maryland. saw many strung out races there. mark martin had that place figured out. in those days maybe 5 cars were on the lead lap. then it was always the race to the car and then sit in traffic for hours. getting home from race actually took longer than the actual race.

they mentioned something about removing the rearview camera on the cars to help with passing. not sure anything will help. kansas will be another track where the get strung out.

i kind of think it’s interesting with the cup races being on fs1 and then after the race it’s nhra racing.

please, please, please fox……end the grid walk segment!!!

CCColorado

Agree on ending the stupid grid walk… on any Network.
Now Mickey is The Worst, but any of the others I’ve seen are almost as bad. Almost!
You don’t get any “breaking news “ or inside scoops, just awkward replies to dumb questions from idiots.
Dover is still a track I’d like to see, but many thanks on the warnings of some dull spots in the action. TV doesn’t always get it right, but it’s still blazingly fast, got to experience that.

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