Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Austin Dillon Averages 187 in XFINITY Practice, Wallace Fined for Muppet Comparison Tweet

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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Jul. 7, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXI
What to Watch: Thursday
- Practice No. 2 for the XFINITY Series has just ended.  Sprint Cup is up next.  Tune to NBCSN, or the NBC Sports App to view.  So far, it's been interesting.  We'll have write-ups on practice later today at Frontstretch.


Aaron Bearden (@AaronBearden93)
and our own Twitter page, @Frontstretch as well for updates!

Thursday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Dillon, Jones Pace Early XFINITY Practices at Kentucky

Thursday is a very busy day at Kentucky Speedway for XFINITY Series teams as they have three practice sessions on the re-configured track.  Austin Dillon was fastest in opening practice at over 187 mph, while Erik Jones was fastest in the second session.  Read more

Subs Brett Moffitt, Parker Kligerman Lead Truck Practices

On Wednesday, Camping World Truck Series teams dodged thunderstorms in order to get practice in for tonight's Buckle Up in Your Truck 225.  The three scheduled sessions were cut to do.  Parker Kligerman, driving in place of John Wes Townley was fastest In the first, while Brett Moffitt was fastest in the second.  Read more

Darrell Wallace Jr. Fined $15,000 for 'Muppets' Tweet

On Wednesday, NASCAR announced a behavioral fine of $15,000 for Darrell Wallace, Jr.  After Friday's Subway Firecracker 250, an angry Wallace tweeted negatively about the officiating.  Read more

Have news for the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Editor's Note: Potts' Shots Will Return Next Week.
The Critic's Annex: Subway Firecracker 250/Spake Returns
by Phil Allaway

Last weekend was so exhausting for me.  It was Wednesday before I felt normal again.  Unlike Saturday night's Cup race, my schedule actually allowed me to see some of Friday night's XFINITY race live.  Of course, that was partially due to the fact that there were a bunch of wrecks.

Before we get into that, FOX Sports announced on Wednesday that they have acquired the services of Shannon Spake.  Spake will work as a sideline reporter for college football and college basketball, in addition to a few NFL games.  That's great, but not really why I'm mentioning this here (though having said that, getting NFL experience will be a coup for Spake).

What is of note of us here in motorsports is that Spake will be returning to NASCAR broadcasting after a couple of years away.  She will serve as a pit reporter for NASCAR races on FOX and FOX Sports 1, in addition to appearing on NASCAR RaceHub.

Spake comes to FOX Sports after spending nearly nine years with ESPN in a number of visible roles.  Before that, Spake worked for SPEED, appearing on a number of NASCAR shows on and off the track (ESPN effectively "poached" her back then for their NASCAR coverage when they re-acquired NASCAR rights).

My thoughts upon reading this when I got home from work on Wednesday is that the move will only benefit FOX Sports.  Spake is a hard-working reporter with a good amount of respect in the garage.  I've had the pleasure of interviewing Spake in the past and I can tell you that she is meticulously prepared.  Even if I honestly could not make out some of the notes she used at the time, we're talking about someone who (at the time) broke out 5-subject notebooks for her job on a regular basis.  Given that this was seven years ago, I'm not sure if that is still the case, or if she's made the switch to an iPad.

I'm not sure if her pit reporting is going to be an every week thing during the FOX portion of the season.  She hasn't done that regularly since 2009 (Note: When I interviewed her, she was pregnant with her twin boys, but it hadn't been announced yet.  After returning from maternity leave, she transitioned into more of a sub-pit reporter/regular reporter role for ESPN).

I'm intrigued about the hire.  As far as sideline reporters go these days, Spake is just about the best sideline reporter out there.  FOX Sports will definitely benefit from her presence.  In terms of FOX Sports' NASCAR coverage, it's a little more of a question mark.  I read the press release as FOX Sports effectively giving Spake Krista Voda's former role.  That's great and I'm happy for her. 

However, it's kind of full at the inn right now.  Is Spake bumping someone out to get this role, and if so, who?  Is FOX finally going to expand back to four pit reporters for races, something that they've been sorely lacking since Dick Berggren retired?  Gee, I hope so, but I don't know.  I suppose we'll find out for sure when FOX Sports puts out their season preview press release in January.  Until then, we can only speculate.

With that said, onto the race broadcast.

Friday night was the season debut for NBC's coverage.  Like Saturday night, the policy of breaking out of full-screen commercials to show wrecks was in play.  Unlike Saturday night, NBCSN had to use it early when Scott Lagasse, Jr., Alex Guenette, Ray Black, Jr. and Mario Gosselin crashed on lap 9. It was good to see here.  However, it also led to some of the uproar that occurred on Saturday night when NBC didn't break out of the NonStop to cover Tony Stewart's late crash.

However, once again, there's a difference here.  The first crash occurred during a full-screen commercial break.  Viewers would have had no way to see what was going on.  They could see Stewart's crash during the Nonstop break.

Sadly, what stood out the most to me were the technical issues that occurred shortly after mid-race.  They started during the caution for Daniel Suarez's crash.  The whole screen went black and stayed that way through the restart.  The feed came back on lap 54 and everyone continued like nothing happened.

Then, the feed got pixelated and choppy during an interview with Suarez a couple of laps later.  Eventually, the feed and picture cut out again.  Then, it came back with just audio for a couple of laps before NBCSN made the decision to go to commercial and get it fixed.  Thankfully, that didn't take long, but we did miss quite a bit.  The whole situation bites.  It's a terrible way to start off the NBC portion of the season.

When I got back to the Microtel I was staying at in Sayre, Pa. last weekend, these issues were ongoing.  I immediately went to Twitter to see if others were having the same issues that I was.  Sure enough, they were.  A number of fans were not happy about it and ranting to users such as The Orange Cone.  The pointy one tried to calm those fans down, who seemed to be a bit unreasonable.

I treat technical problems with race broadcasts the same way I deal with issues with computer programs at work.  Step No. 1 is to try to fix it yourself (if possible).  Step No. 2 is to check around and see if anyone else is having your problem.  In this case, it was a universal issue.  In the past, I've had connector issues with my cable at home that have caused similar issues (the TNT races in 2013 and 2014 were a bit of a toss-up because of the issues).  Step No. 3 is to play the waiting game.

I have no doubt that NBC didn't want to start their NASCAR season with this mess on their hands.  Saturday night's race passed by without any technical issues (although, if you saw my critique from earlier this week, it had its own issues).  I don't know what caused Friday night's issues.  For all I know, one of the cords below came loose.

Credit: Phil Allaway

It happens.  Luckily, NBCSN got it fixed as fast as they could and the issue did not return after lap 60.

Outside of the technical woes, there was some pretty good coverage of the overall racing Friday night.  I did think that the focus was a little too limited to the front of the field, but that can be fixed.  There was also a nice piece during Countdown to Green where cameras followed Erik Jones to his hometown of Byron, Mich. to show what he means to the town where he grew up.

I did have a couple of gripes about the actual coverage as well.  One was the fact that the Competition Caution was not referenced on the broadcast until lap 4 of the race.  Should have been brought up during Countdown to Green, or during the Pace Laps.  Not after the green.  The second was the focus on the Chase Grid.  That's already out of control and it's July.  Cut the garbage and let viewers enjoy the race for what it is.

In regards to the way the race ended, I understand that they had no problems with the event ending the way it did.  I don't have a problem with their thoughts on it.  I do have a problem with NASCAR's rationale her.  If you're going to throw the caution on a last-lap crash, you have to do it really quickly.  As irritating as the Sparks Energy 300 situ was (one that probably shouldn't have had a yellow since it did absolutely nothing to expedite jack), they chose the quick caution call there.  Such a move was better suited for this situation, and also shown some kind of consistency on NASCAR's part.  As far as I'm concerned, they could have rolled the safety equipment on the backstretch cautiously before calling the caution, then fully neutralizing everything once the race had been decided.

Due to the wrecks, the race ran roughly 15-20 minutes longer than planned.  As a result, regular post-race coverage was quite limited.  Can't do much about that.  However, NBCSN has regular post-race shows for Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Verizon IndyCar Series races this year.  While yes, it's like having NASCAR Victory Lane on live (in my opinion, it is not like NASCAR Victory Lap because Victory Lap is (under most circumstances) a completely different studio-based show), it's decent.  You get a good amount of coverage and you don't leave the overall broadcast feeling lost.

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at
Frontstretch Line of the Week
From Beyond the Cockpit: Travis Kvapil on Making His Career in Racing

"Every one of the front runners is at the wind tunnel every week or they have Toyota information or manufacturer information that helps them. Even down to buying all of the tires for the race. We typically don't buy a couple sets of tires for the weekend. We have to spend every dollar wisely and pay attention.

There's no sense of buying tires if we don't have plane tickets to get home or whatever. We just have to take it one step at a time and figure out how we can still be here and still compete, how we can still stay in business, and at the same time, if there's a little left, where we can spend that money.."  - Travis Kvapil on the challenges of running for a smaller team.


by Sean Fesko and Michael Finley
by Bryan Gable
by Toni Montgomery

by Jeff Wolfe

by Beth Lunkenheimer

Q: The Camping World Truck Series made their debut at Kentucky Speedway as part of the track's first major race weekend in 2000.  It was not a great race for Kurt Busch.  What happened that ended his night?

Check back Friday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Wednesday's Answer:

Q:  In 1997, Mike Wallace brought an unusual package to Louisville Motor Speedway and used it to earn a top-10 finish.  What was it?

A: It was an engine with a restrictor plate.  Seriously.  Ken Schrader Racing intentionally ran a restrictor plate at Louisville in order to limit wheelspin.  CBS' Mike Joy explains here.

In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll preview Saturday night's Quaker State 400 from Kentucky Speedway.

Zach Catanzareti returns to answer Four Burning Questions heading into this weekend's action in Kentucky.
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