Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: A Fight Dominates FOX Sports at North Wilkesboro

Sunday (May 19) marked the second time that the NASCAR Cup Series held its All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

As compared to last year, people could move around. It was something of a slog with the old pavement that was older than I am.

Of course, Sunday night’s All-Star Race will be remembered best for the post-race fracas. Before we get to that, we have to talk about the coverage that led up to it.

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5 Points to Ponder: A Fight Proves the All-Star Race Matters

As you can see, the broadcast caught Kyle Busch getting into the wall exiting turn 2 on the first lap live. There was no mention at the time of actual contact being made to cause it. Regardless, Busch was angry.

Clint Bowyer made a note on-air immediately that Busch was going to pay Ricky Stenhouse Jr. back for the slight. Sure enough, he did.

While no contact was made here that put Busch in the wall, Bowyer said that Stenhouse “pushed [Busch] up into the wall.”

Basically, he squeezed him. I don’t think anything intentional happened here on Stenhouse’s part, but Busch overreacted. As for FOX Sports, the coverage here was ok. I didn’t really have too much of an issue with it.

Afterward, Stenhouse talked with Jamie Little about how he thought Busch was mad after his wall contact. He then referenced the time that Busch got in a fight with his current car owner Richard Childress in 2011.

What I don’t understand here is that the booth didn’t seem to believe that anything was going to happen after the race. We knew that Stenhouse was stuck in the infield until the race ended since North Wilkesboro doesn’t have a tunnel.

This isn’t the 1980s. NASCAR isn’t going to let drivers out of the race run across the track under yellow so that they can leave the track.

As far as I’m concerned, the above interview and the subsequent one that Stenhouse did with reporters afterward argue intent to confront Busch after the race. I thought the heck was going to go down at that point. I disapprove of the aforementioned heck.

Now for the fracas itself. That fight went down during Joey Logano’s interview on the frontstretch.

This is the view of the donnybrook from our own Anthony Damcott. The view you saw on FOX Sports 1 is from the man with the gray and black baseball cap on the right. You can see that he held his camera down low without kneeling, hence the vantage point we got on TV.

The picture was pixelated throughout, likely due to the camera’s position. The positioning may have affected the signal getting out. The situation being depicted didn’t help things. Our former colleague Davey Segal ended up on his back after falling over the same wheel that Busch fell over (Busch ended up on top of Davey).

Most of the fans in attendance at North Wilkesboro only knew about the fight because Little (whose interview with Logano was also on the PA system) referenced the fight after she finished her interview. That’s why you hear the crowd pick up 20 seconds into the above video.

See also
Kyle Busch Running Charlotte Xfinity Race for RCR

Viewers at home saw the fight breaking out on a split-screen during the Logano interview, so they didn’t really miss anything. This was where the whole surprise aspect came out. Remember that this fight went down more than 90 minutes after the crash that precipitated it.

I’d argue that this is why the booth thought nothing was going to happen. That’s a bad decision.

The whole affair is completely ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. I have a very different opinion on fighting in racing than most race fans. Namely that it makes the people involved, their families and the sport itself look bad. It’s like they can’t solve their problems without resorting to violence.

We’ll have to see what happens with Stenhouse. We know his actions were pre-meditated. The only difference between Sunday and Matt Crafton at Talladega Superspeedway last fall is that he didn’t hide himself. He was waiting there in his yellow shorts, ready to go.

Outside of the stupidity noted above, you had fresh pavement and multiple grooves on offer. I believe that the chaps in charge of the repave did a good job.

According to NASCAR’s loop data, passing was up quite a bit over last year, which was like racing in a pit of mud. There were more than twice as many passes in the All-Star Open compared to last year. The All-Star Race had 47% more passes than last year.

Unfortunately, it didn’t look like it at the front of the field because there wasn’t any passing for the lead. The only recorded lead changes all night between both the Open and the All-Star Race came during a round of stops under yellow due to Logano pitting before the start-finish line.

As far as the on-track product went, the broadcast appeared to be very complimentary of it. They were very happy about the fact that drivers had seemingly three different lines that they could run and seemingly run the same pace in all of them. That is rare for a short track.

However, the deficiencies of the Next Gen car on short tracks continue to show. It’s hard to make a pass, but not impossible. Kyle Larson came up from the rear to finish fourth with no practice, so he learned something during the race.

Another big story going into the race was the multiple tire compounds that NASCAR had on offer. To be honest, when it was announced, I was out on it almost immediately.

See also
The New Option Tire Leaves Many Drivers Cautiously Optimistic For Improvements

Why?

Because NASCAR has done this before. In 2017, it had soft tires with green lettering on them for the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It didn’t really work as the softer rubber couldn’t overcome clean air.

If anything, there were two screwups here. One is that NASCAR, unlike Formula 1 and seemingly every other series that has multiple tire options, did not mandate the use of both compounds. Most of the top drivers ran the whole race on soft tires.

The other is that the soft tires didn’t wear as much as everyone thought that they would. Early in the weekend, there were blisters on them after 40 laps. Some teams had tires going bad toward the end of a 50-lap stint in the Open. Meanwhile, the five leaders went the first 100 laps without an issue.

The booth was under the opinion that there was going to be a crossover point between the compounds around lap 70 where the regular tires would have been better. That never seemed to happen. As a result, the different compounds ended up being a dud again. I think almost everyone was unhappy about that, including the booth.

There was some good action to be had for positions. Bubba Wallace raced Logano hard for 20 laps to keep himself on the lead lap, showing the potential of North Wilkesboro. He eventually raced up to a sixth-place finish. Drivers could race side-by-side for laps on end. It wasn’t a parade.

I’d argue that the racing we saw Sunday night was better than what we would see when there were points races at North Wilkesboro. Even those races were known to have a low number of lead changes and the possibility of the leader running away. For example, the 1991 Tyson Holly Farms 400 had exactly one lead change in 400 laps, and that only happened because Harry Gant had a tire issue. Had the tire issue not happened, he would have led every lap en route to a fifth-straight win.

Post-race coverage was dominated by the fracas.

In addition to the fracas and Logano interview, viewers got interviews with a few other drivers, including Stenhouse. Busch declined an interview post-race.

Overall, there was some decent racing to be had Sunday night. The on-track product likely hurt some of FOX Sports’ plans for the broadcast, but it showed some good action. The fight coverage was technically challenged due to the signal issues, but I just don’t understand how they didn’t see it coming.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend is pretty sweet. You have the Indianapolis 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Grand Prix of Monaco on the same day. Oh yeah. If you want to sequester yourself in a room and hang out there from 7 a.m. ET to midnight ET Sunday, be my guest. TV listings can be found here.

We will have critiques of the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. In the Critic’s Annex, we’ll cover the mess known as the Wright Guard 250.

If you have a gripe with meor 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

2021 Phil Allaway Headshot Phil Allaway

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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janice

i didn’t see the fight “live” as i had turned off the race cause i knew the leader was not going to be passed and would be the winner, just as in the open.

hopefully charlotte will be different but i seriously doubt it.

Steve C

Ok this is the only way Wrecky can get some TV coverage. Before he starts yapping about how Busch isn’t running well, he might want to compare their numbers. Through the years, just look at the crash percentage he’s in. Mediocre on a good day. Btw, I’m not necessarily a Busch fan.

CCColorado

While I don’t agree with fighting in general, sometimes it’s a good thing… like the recent dust up with Busch and Stenhouse. Maybe a few more fisticuffs with the younger crowd of drivers would have brought a bit more respect on the track itself. Hmmm.
The event itself was fine, thank goodness there was a crowd! Nice to see the improvements to the track, but yes, passing was at a F1 level… eek! …
and can someone explain why we have the single lug on wheels now? Not a single passenger car in the world uses one, why our stock cars?
I thought the broadcast was pretty good, actually. Clint did have some good points. He isn’t the total numb skull he’s made out to be, and is a good foil for Harvicks jabs.

janice

we always have michael’s gridwalk for the numb skull episode of the week.

my only concern about the fighting, and with busch in general, is his son is racing. who’s to say that one time brexton doesn’t win and he just starts in on competition and figured if his dad does this, why can’t he?!

Jeremy

In Kyle’s case, his son keeps seeing his dad getting punched in the face every time he acts this way, so maybe he’ll put 2+2 together and start to think there’s a better way to go about things?

Shayne

‘Cause daddy always gets his ass beat. Lol.

Shayne

Bad optics. I knew Stenhouse was going to sucker punch Kyle after his “hold my watch comment”. The assault could have been prevented, but NASCAR and FOX needed a new highlight reel. It looked like a scripted creative writer’s wet dream. The clowns tripping over the tires could have hit their thick skulls on the pavement.

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