Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Wednesday: The End of the Coca-Cola 600 Was Weird

Sunday night (May 26) brought the NASCAR Cup Series back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for what was supposed to be 600 miles of action.

Or, as FOX refers to it, “600 Miles of Remembrance.” That didn’t come to pass.

As we know, the race was ultimately declared complete after 249 laps were logged. The race was originally red-flagged due to lightning. That lightning eventually became heavy rain.

See also
Coca-Cola 600 Ending Surprises Everyone, Even the Winners

The rain moved out, and NASCAR put out the track-drying equipment in order to get the surface ready for racing. However, the call was made at 11:30 p.m. ET that the humidity was too high to get it dry in a reasonable amount of time, knowing that there was at least 90 minutes of racing remaining.

I’ve covered one Coca-Cola 600 for Frontstretch, and it was 96 degrees the day of the race. I’ve also covered six July races at Daytona International Speedway for the site, three of which were delayed by rain (one, the 2014 race, was rain-shortened). I get the idea of humidity plaguing track-drying efforts. It was probably so humid out there Sunday night that you would have broken out in a sweat as soon as you walked outside.

Since the lightning stopped the race, FOX’s red-flag coverage was extremely limited. Hard to do much when everyone has to take shelter. FOX aired interviews with Christopher Bell, Brad Keselowski and Tyler Reddick, among others, via Zoom. The Bell interview was rather sketchy since he was on his pit box. Is that considered to be a “safe place” during a lightning delay? I wouldn’t think so.

FOX replayed a feature on Thomas Kennedy, the former member of the military whose name was on the windshield of Bell’s car, that had originally aired on NASCAR RaceDay. Since the UFL game between the Michigan Panthers and Houston Roughnecks went long by 17 minutes, FOX joined the broadcast in the middle of the feature. Those who do not have FOX Sports 1 could not have seen the full piece when it originally aired.

Afterward, they broke away to NASCAR RaceHub: Best of Radioactive. The plan, according to Shannon Spake, was to air that until midnight ET with periodic check-ins for updates.

At 11:30 p.m. ET, they came back to Charlotte for an update, in which Mike Joy gave a fairly long explanation, then said that the race was called and Bell won. This struck me as strange at the time. I didn’t realize just how strange it was.

They brought Bell back on the broadcast for his victory lane interview, and he looked confused. Turns out that nobody had told him the race had been called and he found out when Joy said it was over on the broadcast. That’s rather ridiculous and shouldn’t happen.

The way this all went down has led some fans online to believe that FOX forced NASCAR to call the race. I don’t care how much money they’re paying to air these races, a TV network should never have that kind of power. NASCAR has to be able to officiate its own races without that kind of outside influence.

Do I think that’s actually what went down? I don’t know. I honestly doubt it. NASCAR’s vice president of competition Elton Sawyer went on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday (May 27), and what he said is in the clip below.

I’ve covered NASCAR races that ended after 2 a.m. ET due to rain delays. Remember Austin Dillon’s crash into the catchfence at the end of the 2015 Coke Zero 400 in Daytona? That was at 2:42 a.m. ET on a Monday morning, after the holiday.

I get that it was a late night. It was a late night for everyone, but this just doesn’t seem to hold water to me.

Also, I’m not sure what Concord, N.C., requires of Charlotte Motor Speedway in regards to a noise ordinance. Apparently, they can run really late there (Richmond Raceway is the opposite, as almost any delay of a night race puts them in trouble).

The weather in Indianapolis took one of FOX’s storylines out of commission. Kyle Larson made the decision to stay in Indianapolis and race 500 miles. That race didn’t start until right around the time he would have had to leave to get to Charlotte in time for the race.

He got to the track right around the time that the yellow came out for rain. The grandmaster plan was for Larson to replace Justin Allgaier in the car during the yellow. That eventually became a decision to put Larson in the car after the red flag was withdrawn. Obviously, that wasn’t allowed to happen.

With no Larson, FOX had to rely on different storylines. Overall, Sunday’s race was actually a very competitive race, much more so than last year. According to NASCAR’s Loop Data, the race had more passes under green than last year’s race, despite being called with 151 laps to go.

Problem is, it didn’t look like it at times. Especially early on, it seemed like there really wasn’t much going on. That doesn’t drive home the competitiveness of the race to viewers.

Something that I did note as interesting was how FOX covered Noah Gragson’s crash on lap 171. They did not catch the wreck live on-air. What usually happens in this case is that the production crew checks their cameras in the production truck to see if any of them caught it. Likely the view first noted as catching the wreck in the truck is the one that ends up on the first replay. Unfortunately, that one was the replay where it was only caught in progress.

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Only Yesterday: Back to the Beginning of Stewart-Haas Racing

It became clear to the production staff that the aforementioned shot was the only one they had of the crash. Not good.

FOX then chose to go to the alternative methods that it has available to it. SMT data determined that Gragson got very close to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. exiting turn 2, so that was aired. Far from ideal, but it allows an idea of what went down.

Later on, FOX pulled the NASCAR Drive camera footage. That footage definitely showed that Gragson ran in the side of Stenhouse, resulting in the crash.

While I wish that FOX would have been able to catch the crash perfectly with one of its own cameras the first try, this was a good example of making use of what’s available to paint the proper picture.

Once the race was called, viewers got the aforementioned victory lane interview with Bell, some studio analysis and that was it.

Overall, this wasn’t the best broadcast from Charlotte. I think that it could have been a little better in showing the on-track action, especially early in the race. The action that we did get was pretty good though.

The way the race ended is a bitter pill. Would I have been fine waiting until 3 a.m. ET for this race to finish? Sure. I could have done things to kill time until it restarted, and we would have had a good finish. Problem is, you would have had people working 19-hour days.

That’s all for this week. For next weekend, we have a full array of action. The NASCAR Cup Series will be at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the third time, along with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Meanwhile, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be at Portland International Raceway for its one and only standalone race of the year, along with ARCA Menards Series West.

The NTT IndyCar Series follows up the Indianapolis 500 with the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit on the streets of Downtown Detroit. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is on the undercard there. TV listings can be found here.

Next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday will cover the Enjoy Illinois 300 from Gateway and possibly the Pacific Office Automation 147 from Portland. The Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter will cover Saturday’s Drivers Only broadcast of the BetMGM 300 from Charlotte.

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

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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DoninAjax

“The End of the Coca-Cola 600 Was Weird”????
Where have you been since 2004? NA$CAR decisions are getting weirder by the day!

Is NA$CAR or the networks responsible for the TV time-outs and the never-ending ads?

Is NA$CAR or the networks responsible for the 3:30 pm EST start times on the East Coast and 12:30 pm local time on the West Coast?

I guess Tony has finally had enough!

Echo

Ben must know what he is doing, look at the huge raise Nascar got in the TV contracts and so far they aren’t sharing the extra revenue. Lesa France Kennedy thinks Ben’s ideas are brilliant. Counting money all is well.

CCColorado

Agree on the weird comment. NA$CAR lost its way so long ago it’s hard to remember. Was it the COT, the stupid Roval or brainless LA coddling?
To me the whole day was odd, what with the rain at Indy, no doing the double, Larson speeds in the pits, a fantastic last lap OUTSIDE pass for the win, stock car action, then…. rain. UGH! Then the odd winners interview…
Yes… weird. NA$CAR Normal

Jim

In addition to the continually annoying barbs between Harvick and Boyer, plus with Boyer cutting into Harvick too often, your noticing Mike Joy’s lengthy lead-in to the race being called was on point. That was a very strange announcement. Oh, and let’s criticize NASCAR for using the Stenhouse-Busch incident to promote itself — while doing the same thing!

janice

i would think na$car was watching the weather radar. if the forecast had changed to potential rain, could they had started the race on tv at 6 instead of the pre-race for almost an hour? yes i know it was memorial day and the race is a deep history of tradition. they could had woven that coverage into race coverage. but then again, if they had started the race earlier the larson issue would have still been a story line, as he got to the track just as it all fell apart (weatherwise).

sb

With Monday being a holiday and most people didn’t have to work, why not finish the race at 10 am Monday morning? They still had enough laps left to make it worth while, especially the people who drove miles to see a ‘600’. And, I find the humidity excuse laughable. How could it NOT be humid after a downpour in the late evening? Does no one there pay attention to weather in general? Very disappointing end.

Sliddy

I was also wondering why they couldn’t wait until Monday? That would have given Larson the chance to complete. Was it just because the race was over halfway complete? It’s not like the haulers have a long drive home.

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