Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX Bids Farewell to Cup for 2024

Sonoma Raceway marks the final NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2024 season that will air on the FOX family of networks. Given that this is the last Cup race in this TV contract, FOX was clearly in a reminiscing mood all weekend.

During NASCAR RaceDay, the main feature of the show saw Jamie Little interviewing Austin Cindric. Naturally, the topics centered around his somewhat surprising victory at World Wide Technology Raceway. That doesn’t really shock me since he hadn’t won in more than two years and didn’t seem like he was anywhere close to doing so.

My main takeaway from the piece is that the past couple of years have been rather trying for Cindric. He’s struggled on track and he had been taking it rather hard. He’s still having fun racing even if it seems like he’s had “three rookie seasons.”

See also
Up to Speed: Austin Cindric’s Surprise Win Blows up Playoff Race

One of the main topics of discussion during FOX Sports’ portion of the season has been production, or more specifically, the direction of the broadcast production. Chuck McDonald took over as head producer for FOX NASCAR at the beginning of last season. Since then, there has been a backslide in production strategies.

When he first came on, one of the things that McDonald (and by extension, FOX) insisted on was frontloading commercial breaks. That strategy backfired, unfortunately.

More recently, we’ve had issues when things happen simply because the production fails to keep up. We had another example of that in the opening laps Sunday (June 9) when Denny Hamlin blew his engine.

Our Spanish-language viewers actually have it worse.

It appears that the Spanish-language commentators are not on-site. As a result, they are completely dependent on whatever FOX Sports provides, like us at home. It’s not good, dudes.

Admittedly, I know this because of a DVR error. Even when I’m home to watch races live, I DVR the race so that I can go back and re-watch certain aspects of the broadcast for this column. In this case, I discovered Monday that I accidentally DVR’d the FOX Deportes broadcast of the race instead of the English-language broadcast. I didn’t even realize that I get FOX Deportes prior to this (I thought it was part of an international tier that I don’t subscribe to). If I actually spoke Spanish, I would be able to speak to this situation better.

It’s actually this very situation that I fear for next year. As you know, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be exclusive to The CW in 2025. NASCAR is producing those broadcasts itself and there is a decent chance that a lot of those broadcasts will be done remotely out of the new production center in North Carolina. If you’re completely dependent on the pictures fed to you from the track, you’re only as good as your production.

If your production is lacking, then you’re in trouble. Simple as that.

Now, apparently, this had nothing to do with driver error. Larry McReynolds back in Charlotte checked into the engine issue and determined that nothing untoward happened. It just broke.

Ty Gibbs’ crash was directly attributable to the new wall added to the inside of turn 11. I don’t agree with the track and/or NASCAR’s reasoning for it. It was directly responsible for multiple incidents on Sunday.

In regards to Gibbs’ crash, FOX picked up Gibbs’ issue really late, right before he hit the wall in turn 1. It didn’t catch the true cause at all with its cameras. After a commercial break, it used the NASCAR Drive camera in Gibbs’ car to show viewers this view:

Once the wrecking was over, you had another strategy race, not dissimilar to last year’s event. The drivers who managed to go until the final laps of stage two before making their first stop were in the catbird seat here since they could go much further on their tires and fuel before making their final stop (three of the top-five finishers were in this group).

Tyler Reddick, who led the most laps Sunday, should have been there. However, he locked up his tires shortly after his first stop. I don’t recall seeing a tire lockup affect a car that much without a failure being in play. I felt that the booth did a good job explaining not only how Reddick now had a propensity to lock up more, but also how it meant that Reddick couldn’t brake as hard.

See also
Monday Morning Pit Box: Strategy Winners, Losers at Sonoma

In the closing portions of the race, you had Larson with his fresher tires against Buescher and Martin Truex Jr. Clint Bowyer pointed out the importance of turns 4 and 10 on the circuit. Quite simply, they are the setup turns for the primary passing zones (turns 7 and 11) at Sonoma.

Truex effectively lost the race because he was unable to get good runs out of those turns. A slip in turn 4 allowed Larson to take the lead away for good. Granted, Truex running out of fuel would have eventually cost him the win anyway, but it does show that you have to set up your moves. I thought that FOX covered the battle for the win fairly between Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

Post-race coverage was very brief since FOX needed to get out of Sonoma to get to the UFL playoff game between the San Antonio Brahmas and the St. Louis Battlehawks. As a result, viewers only got interviews with racewinner Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher before FOX left the track. For what was its final Cup race of the year, that’s weak.

For instance, there’s the whole incident on the final lap involving Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain. Viewers on FOX never even got a replay of that. NASCAR posted that to its YouTube page.

At the time, it seemed like there was potential for stupidity to go down after the race because of this. As far as I know, it didn’t. However, if it had happened, viewers would not have known.

In addition, FOX didn’t even interview Michael McDowell on-air. You might remember that he finished second on Sunday. That’s quite the snub. I get that you have to get to the football, but jeepers. Perhaps there was more coverage centered around the end of the FOX Cup season planned, but it got scrubbed because of all the early cautions.

Coverage-wise, this race (at least the first half) was full of shenanigans. Things calmed down in the second half of the event. The coverage struck me as being very front-centric. That’s a problem when the field spreads out. By the finish, it was nearly 50 seconds back to 20th.

See also
The Underdog House: New Sonoma, Same AJ Allmendinger

There’s more fun to be seen out there. I can understand focusing on what was ultimately the battle for the win, but outside of that, there are other things that you can cover that can help bring home the fact that this was a pretty exciting race to watch.

For the future, I want FOX to work out its production issues. It needs to be more on task on the button. I’ve never been more frustrated with production than I have been this year.

Harvick had a good rookie year in the booth. Next year, it appears that the trio will be back together. That will only help. Bowyer, when he stays on task, can be good. Sunday is one example of that. Keep him on task and away from skylarking and you’ll be fine.

That’s all for this week. Next week, the NBC Sports portion of the NASCAR season gets underway with the first-ever visit for the NASCAR Cup Series to Iowa Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series will support Cup. Meanwhile, the eyes will be on Le Mans as the 92nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be this weekend. TV listings can be found here.

Next week, we’ll have a critique of NASCAR’s return to Iowa here in Couch Potato Tuesday at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex will cover the Apex Grand Prix at Road America.

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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JG

Generally, I don’t mind Fox’s coverage or the screwing around in the booth but I have to agree the coverage of this race was horrible. On the last lap you had the Chastain-Busch tangle plus Elliott bumping Chastain in turn 11 to gain a spot and we were treated to Kyle Larson’s pit crew celebrating instead of seeing the full finish of the race. It was just horrible coverage.

Charlie

Thanks for the review. It is appreciated.
For some reason, the basement dwellers do not like Mike Joy. He is the best. Period. Does he make mistakes, minor ones and very seldom in a fast-moving sport with a production team that is extremely mediocre at best. He makes it work AND he balances his teammates and makes that smooth as well.
He will be missed, and it will be really exposed with the Romper Room that will be the booth team with NBC. How will they get Rinas Vicay mentioned in a NASCAR race?

DoninAjax

I watched the Canadian GP race on ABC. They picked up the British feed . NO COMMERCIALS! A few weeks ago a MotoGP race had a three day attendance of 297,000. The Canadian GP attendance was 350,000.

Ellenjay

One of the F1 races for antenna users ! No commercials is so nice, I stayed and listened to DP talk under an umbrella pre race.

Steve

I have never seen so many promos and ads during the last few laps or a road course race in my life. Showing a promo of Harvicks show and interview with Alex Rodriguez with 5 laps to go was mind boggling. Even when they did go back to the race, we had more ads and promos, so when something did happen, we missed it (Busch/Chastain).

I have said this many times. How can the fans get excited about the finish of a race, when the network barely cares about it. They don’t seem interested in showing any racing and they obviously don’t understand their audience.

Sadly I don’t think NBC will be much better. One less person screaming on the broadcast, but their production isn’t much better, especially when we get closer to the playoffs. Then its points points points every week.

Is anyone else concerned that Nascar is producing of the races on the CW. Isn’t that a conflict of interest, especially if there is some controversy surrounding the sanctioning body?

Last edited 5 days ago by Steve
CCColorado

Thanks for the insights Phil.
I agree that Harvick had a good rookie year and that if on point Boyer isn’t the Village Idiot.
The NBC coverage will be interesting, with Jr. not in the mix, although that might be a good thing… sort of. I for one , and my wife too, could hardly tell Burton and Dales voices apart, and they aren’t exactly calm and soothing either!
Rick Allen is 3 steps down from the Pro Mike Joy, and Letarte , while giving good info, gets to wordy .
Off we go!

Bill B

Latarte also has the annoying habit of going down the same list of issues that could possibly occur during the last ten laps of the race while the leader is usually several seconds ahead and just riding it out until the end. It’s like he’s trying to inject drama where there isn’t any.

RCFX1

Listening to Suarez during the Xfinity race was excruciating. He speaks English, but he’s not able to be a commenter. So many um’s and uh’s made it unlistenable. And that’s coming from someone that has hispanic family members that still have their accents.

Bill B

Yep, it’s the new paradigm, diversity over ability. If there is one prerequisite for announcing a sporting event, it’s that you should be able to speak clearly enough for listeners to understand your commentary.

Daytona-520

I’ve had 0 issues understanding Saurez all season (didn’t watch the Sonoma broadcast since I was at the track but I doubt he was significantly worse than his others) and I prefer him over about half the guys we’ve had in the booth. Might be a you thing.

Christian Andrews

You guys watching Race Hub:The Victory Lap tonight?

Christian Andrews

Nascar is more important than stupid UFL action.

Bill B

Would’ve been 20 years ago.

Christian Andrews

I know right?

DoninAjax

The times they are a-changin’. This is progress?

Wildcatsfan2016

definitely not progress at least not forward progress

Christopher

Phil Allaway is as bad as Fox itself for not acknowledging that this was also Fox’s last Sonoma broadcast for at least the next seven years. Starting next year Fox has only 14 races and this race will be part of the TNT portion of broadcasts. As I noted on another story, while the Fox booth has been reinvigorated and immensely improved with Harvick, Fox is so bad that they did not allow Mike Joy to give his usual season end wrap up and thanks to all the behind the camera personnel, with a screen roll of all the names. To add insult to injury, Fox had the time to do this, cutting away immediately after the race to their Charlotte studio for some worthless blather from Spake, McReynolds and McMurray.

Kicks

Fox has been acting as if they don’t give a squat about NASCAR coverage. Production quality has been slipping year after year. Post-race… what’s that? If something happens during a side-by-side, they should go back to coverage. There will be time during the caution to shove in more commercials. Don’t need to see the pit crew celebrate before even the top ten finish. The Mikey grid-walk is a cartoon. No more Xfinity races. Did Fox even try to bid on them? Fewer Cup races. Again, did Fox try for a longer race stretch? And now, the end of Race Hub.The writing was on the wall when FS1 took over from SPEED. SPEED had some sort of activity all day be it NASCAR, Dirt, Moto, Aussie Jet Boats, Airplanes or anything else with horsepower. FS1 would rather spend all day doing talk shows about stick/ball sports and if those sports interfere with racing coverage, oh well tough stuff race fans.

Kevin in SoCal

They didn’t even show if Truex made it across the line or not.

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