Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Rating The Top 3 Active NASCAR TV Analysts

Hello, race fans. Hope you enjoyed Easter Weekend. For me, it was relatively boring. Ended up spending much of my Easter watching Indianapolis 500s from the 1990s on YouTube.

Well, this week in Couch Potato Tuesday, you won’t be bored here; we’re going to broach new ground. Most of the hundreds of critiques that I’ve written for Frontstretch involve me watching race telecasts and breaking them down, piece by piece. Even though I am not wholly negative in my critiques of broadcasts, I have definitely earned a reputation from some as a “Negative Nancy.”

Couch Potato Tuesday: NBC Sports Does Well; FOX Lucky with Feud Focus

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast criticism is the object of our affection, or hatred. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were both at Auto Club Speedway. Meanwhile, the IZOD IndyCar Series held their season opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

*Before we start*, I need to rant. I tried to watch NBC Sports Network’s live coverage of the Grand Prix of Malaysia early Sunday morning (gotta love that 4am start time that screwed up my entire Sunday and Monday). I wasn’t even planning on critiquing the telecast for the site. I just wanted to watch the race, because I like Formula One. My cable system (Time Warner Cable) has SD and HD feeds of NBC Sports Network.

Couch Potato Tuesday: FOX's Pre-Race - Not In-Race - Coverage Concern

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where telecasts are the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were back in action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For Cup, it was the first intermediate race for the new Gen-6 cars. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"> <img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15523.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"180\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">ESPN and FOX were responsible for keeping the action in focus this week in Las Vegas. See what Phil Allaway thinks of their work in Couch Potato Tuesday.</p></div> *Sam's Town 300* Usually, we only have issues with other events cutting into _NASCAR Countdown_ during the college football season in the fall. However, March is another bad time for that due to the various tournaments for basketball. On Saturday, the regular season ACC matchup between North Carolina State and Florida State ran long by 17 minutes. Ordinarily, this infringement would just bite. We'd miss out on whatever feature ESPN had planned and some analysis from the Pit Studio. However, Saturday's Countdown was a planned 15-minute show. The Pit Studio (along with Nicole Briscoe and her analyst cohorts) was taking a planned vacation prior to heading to Bristol, Tennessee, so Allen Bestwick was due to host the show from the broadcast booth. Due to the overrunning game from Raleigh, ESPN chose to bump pre-race coverage to ESPNEWS. There, ESPN did four pre-race interviews in what could be considered a basic, bare bones edition. Generally, I liked it. Short but sweet… The race telecast was middle-of-the-road by ESPN standards. There was still a fairly high focus on the frontrunners during the event. Since Sam Hornish, Jr. led a large amount, he got a lot of airtime. I know that it's a broken record by now, but I want to see more coverage throughout the field. I think ESPN is taking the right route in regards to their coverage of Travis Pastrana in the series. Last year, they did all kinds of profiles and features on him, but now they're playing a wait and see game to watch how he develops as a racer. They're giving Pastrana coverage during the races, but not an insane amount, as if he's the only up-and-comer competing. It is a far different approach as compared to how they treated Danica Patrick during her first full season in the Nationwide Series (and how FOX is treating her now as a Sprint Cup rookie, to their own detriment). <div style=\"float:right; width:200px; margin:20px; padding-left:20px;\"> <object classid=\"clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000\" codebase=\"http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=7,0,0,0\" width=\"160\" height=\"350\" align=\"middle\"> <param name=\"allowScriptAccess\" value=\"sameDomain\" /> <param name=\"movie\" value=\"/poll/poll.swf?pollid=2135&owner=phpjabbers.com&phpurl=/poll/\" /> <param name=\"quality\" value=\"high\" /> <param name=\"bgcolor\" value=\"#ffffff\" /> <embed src=\"/poll/poll.swf?pollid=2135&owner=phpjabbers.com&phpurl=/poll/\" quality=\"high\" bgcolor=\"#ffffff\" width=\"160\" height=\"350\" align=\"middle\" allowScriptAccess=\"sameDomain\" type=\"application/x-shockwave-flash\" pluginspage=\"http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer\" /> </object> </div> During the race, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. showed up and spent 20 or so minutes in the booth. While he was up there, Stenhouse answered some questions on restarts and compared the Nationwide CoT to the new Gen-6 car. Otherwise, he stayed quiet. The booth had to go out of their way to involve Stenhouse in the conversation, which takes away from the race in general. I guess either the driver is introverted or he just didn't have all that much to say. One thing is for sure: Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree won't have to worry about Stenhouse taking over a broadcast anytime soon, like Justin Allgaier has unintentionally done in the past during ARCA telecasts on SPEED. The end of the race ran up against the end of the network's timeslot. As a result, post-race coverage was relatively light. ESPN did five quick interviews, then left the air to get to the Ohio Valley Conference Championship Game (Murray State vs. Belmont in Nashville). The telecast was OK to watch. However, just being OK is not necessarily good enough. I still want a more inclusive race broadcast. I don't need to be staring at single cars three seconds ahead of everyone else all the time. That's when other battles should be highlighted, regardless of whether those drivers are on the lead lap or not. Also, Stenhouse didn't do much in the booth, but I'm sure Zest (his sponsor for the weekend) was happy to get the random plug when he finished up there. *Kobalt Tools 400* <div style=\"float:right; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"> <img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/11379.jpg\" width=\"250\" height=\"379\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Carl Edwards was a major focus of the FOX pre-race show on Sunday.</p></div> On Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series was in action. The topsy-turvy weather resulted in a screwy race in which certain drivers that earned good starting spots, as a result of their performances in 2012 were literally rolling chicanes. FOX had two short feature pieces during their pre-race show. One saw Michael Waltrip (who still shouldn't be on the broadcast because he, as a car owner, is hopelessly biased) and Stenhouse take a trip over to the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas to have a good time. First up was a trip on the \"Big Shot,\":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Shot_%28ride%29 an amusement park ride where riders are pneumatically shot into the air at 45 mph. \"Here's a similar example at the Great Escape in Queensbury, NY.\":http://www.sixflags.com/greatEscape/rides/Sasquatch2010.aspx That was all for Michael, but Stenhouse wanted more, specifically \"SkyJump Las Vegas.\":http://www.skyjumplasvegas.com/ This ride is a controlled descent of over 800 feet to the ground. If you'd like to try it out, it costs $109.99, with pictures and/or video extra. They made it sound like bungee jumping (which has been attempted off the tower in the past), but it really wasn't. Naturally, Michael begged out of that. The second piece saw Darrell Waltrip sit down and talk to Carl Edwards about Phoenix. This piece was boring. I already knew that Edwards just wanted the losing streak to be over. Also, I don't need back flip analysis. I don't give a hoot about that. Race coverage was not bad, but it still could use some improvements. For example, I've previously ranted this season about how FOX needs to do something during the side-by-side segments other than showing the leader. They still did not give us much action during the brief side-by-side segment early in the race. Instead, we got a couple of minutes of Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson (separately), isolated in a shot, with a break to show Clint Bowyer's unscheduled pit stop. It's as if Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip continued commenting during the break, and then the footage corresponded to that mystery commentary. I don't think that's true, but that's just what it looked like to me. FOX (McReynolds in particular) correctly predicted that there would be \"comers and goers\" in the early part of Sunday's race. I just don't think anyone thought Clint Bowyer would fall back as quick as he did. Back in January, Bowyer referred to the Mazda 6's in the Rolex 24 at Daytona as chicanes. Sunday, Bowyer was the chicane. They literally could not show how fast Bowyer was dropping through the field. All we got were a couple of updates, laps apart showing how Bowyer was in a freefall. However, to be fair, we did get at least one pit update that indicated that Bowyer believed he had a flat. Ultimately, he stopped during the side-by-side commercial on Lap 14, having dropped into the 30s by that point. That almost seems like a record for someone who didn't wreck or blow an engine at an unrestricted track. Also early on, FOX used an infrared camera in a couple of instances. They've done it a few times in the past. Here, we saw it used on pit road, and with a stationary camera exiting Turn 4 that showed the groove was significantly warmer than the rest of the track. Interesting, but still kind of gimmicky. FOX's entire booth took a stand against the No. 11 team's strategy of leaving Denny Hamlin out on 40-lap tires during the third caution. Yes, Darian Grubb felt the need to gamble there since Hamlin was the last driver on the lead lap (he'd gotten the Lucky Dog on the previous caution), but that was simply not the time to gamble. The chances were way too high that he would get screwed over by a yellow, as encapsulated by Darrell's reference to short-term gain, but a long-term loss. That's exactly what happened. Hamlin was lucky to finish where he was before the gamble (15th), thus creating a push. Good analysis here. Finally, I still don't understand the constant need to remind viewers every time that someone uses the apron that it isn't out of bounds. NASCAR laid those double yellow lines at Daytona and Talladega for a reason. They're not just for the drivers, but for TV viewers as well. We're not blind. Granted, my readership here does not consist of just casual fans, but how many people watch a Cup race for the first time every week? That's hard to quantify. ESPN wasn't like that during their heyday in the 1990s. They did have \"Track Facts,\" but that was once a race, and it was never the same thing twice. You learned the rest by watching. FOX needs to embrace that. <div style=\"float:right; width:200px; margin:20px; padding-left:20px;\"> <object classid=\"clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000\" codebase=\"http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=7,0,0,0\" width=\"160\" height=\"350\" align=\"middle\"> <param name=\"allowScriptAccess\" value=\"sameDomain\" /> <param name=\"movie\" value=\"/poll/poll.swf?pollid=2136&owner=phpjabbers.com&phpurl=/poll/\" /> <param name=\"quality\" value=\"high\" /> <param name=\"bgcolor\" value=\"#ffffff\" /> <embed src=\"/poll/poll.swf?pollid=2136&owner=phpjabbers.com&phpurl=/poll/\" quality=\"high\" bgcolor=\"#ffffff\" width=\"160\" height=\"350\" align=\"middle\" allowScriptAccess=\"sameDomain\" type=\"application/x-shockwave-flash\" pluginspage=\"http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer\" /> </object> </div> Post-race coverage was OK. Viewers were treated to four interviews, in addition to checks of the unofficial results and point standings. Also, there was a weird \"podium graphic\" thing that FOX is doing this year that shows the top-3 finishers. I guess it's something that they did during the Media Day at Daytona last month, but it's really stupid and needs to go. Las Vegas was an interesting race for the new Gen-6 car. I think the long green flag runs didn't necessarily show off how racy it is, but it won't necessarily hurt the car's image. It's arguable that the drivers are still getting used to the overall feel of the Gen 6, since seemingly everyone was loose. Somehow, only Bobby Labonte well and truly wiped out all day (I'm not going to count Marcos Ambrose's slide that drew the second yellow on Lap 160). The booth (especially McReynolds) sold the raciness of the Gen-6 car, sometimes to a substantial level. However, we've still got a ways to go with it. That's it for this week. Next weekend is the first busy one of the racing season. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide cars will be back in action at Bristol for their first short track races. Meanwhile, the American Le Mans Series will hold their first and biggest event, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Broadcast coverage for that one has switched networks, providing same-day telecasting for the first time since 2010. Finally, Formula One returns with their first outing on the _NBC Sports Network._ *TV Listings* *Tuesday, March 12* *Time Telecast Network* *1:00 AM - 1:30 AM* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_ *6:00 PM - 7:00 PM* NASCAR RaceHub _SPEED_ *Wednesday, March 13* *Time Telecast Network* *1:00 AM - 1:30 AM* …

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Couch Potato Tuesday: Did ESPN, FOX, SPEED Cover Larson’s Crash Right?

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdowns are the main subject of interest. This past weekend was supposed to be one of the greatest weekends of racing all year. However, the crash that happened at the end of the Nationwide race overshadowed everything else, good and bad. Ultimately, I have to look at the telecasts under that lens. Because of that, the Camping World Truck Series event will not be covered in this critique. Quite simply, under the current circumstances, I would not be able to do SPEED’s telecast justice. However, it will covered later this week in the “Critic’s Annex,”:/notice/9557/ a piece which can be found every Thursday in the Frontstretch Newsletter.

Couch Potato Tuesday: John Wes Townley Got Served

Hello, race fans. Welcome to the first regular critique of the 2013 season. Before we get started, I want to start with my hope for the year, a lesson to learn through quoting the late Larry Nuber. On the second lap of the 1987 Winston 500, Nuber said, “I must tell all of you, racing on TV is the best because you can get right up in the cockpit, you can see all the way around [the track]. You don’t miss any of the action.”

In this case, Nuber was comparing racing on TV to being in-person, live in the broadcast booth at Talladega. Say what you want about Nuber’s ability as a booth analyst, but he had a point in what he was saying about telecasts. Racing is an excellent sport to watch on TV. However, not all of the action has been shown, for various reasons in recent years. NASCAR’s partners, be it SPEED, FOX, TNT, or ABC/ESPN should strive to get back to that “ideal” Nuber describes, becoming as inclusive as possible for their viewership.

Couch Potato Tuesday: A Brief 2013 NASCAR TV Season Preview

Hello, race fans. Hope you had a great holiday season. Mine was decent. I got a new camera, then took it to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. I’ll post some of my best pictures from there on my “Facebook fan page”:http://www.facebook.com/WritingOfPhilAllaway/ later this week for you. Let’s just say that I really like my new Nikon 1 J1.

However, pictures of Audi R8’s and Porsche 911’s are not what this column is about. TV telecasts are what we’re discussing here. I don’t have anything to critique this week, but within a few days there will be V8 engines growling and exciting action on television. It is my goal to give you a little preview of what you’re likely to see this year as the NASCAR 2013 campaign revs up.

Couch Potato Tuesday: Title Usurps All, Including Covering the Race

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critique is the name of my game. This will mark the final full-fledged TV critique of the 2012 season, as every series of note with the exception of Formula One and the V8 Supercars are done for the year. This past weekend was Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final races of the 2012 season for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

Couch Potato Tuesday: Fracas Coverage Good, Focus Again Hurts ESPN

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdown is the name of the game. This past weekend, NASCAR’s National series were all in Avondale, Arizona for 662 scheduled miles of action. I have no doubts that ESPN wasn’t expecting what they got on Sunday, but let’s take a look at the three race telecasts on offer.