NASCAR Fans Watching Cup Series Championship Justifiably Upset With NBC for Major Blunder During Broadcast
Unfortunately, what those tuning in saw was a major blunder during the broadcast that never happens in other sports. Fans were understandably unhappy because of what they missed. Hopefully, NASCAR officials were taking notes and plan on bringing up the incident with the networks as they negotiate the future television contract.
NASCAR fans miss major race-changing moment because of commercial break
Four drivers started the final race of the 2023 Cup Series season with hopes of ending the day as the champion. Ryan Blaney crossed the finish line first, just ahead of the two remaining title-contending drivers, and claimed his first Bill France Cup.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron were the only two drivers battling Blaney for the championship when the 312-lap race concluded because Christopher Bell encountered brake problems in Stage 2 that resulted in a crash and early exit.
On Lap 107 and seconds before disaster struck for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, he ran sixth with Byron and Blaney a couple of spots in front of him and Kyle Larson running directly behind. As the No. 20 car headed into Turn 3, the right front brake rotor exploded, resulting in the car making a right into the wall.
Incredibly, those watching at home didn’t see it when it happened. That’s because NBC went to a commercial break at the very moment of the accident. Viewers weren’t informed about the details of the championship-changing incident until Lap 111 when the broadcast returned to the track more than two minutes later and showed the severely damaged car being examined by the crew on pit road.
Fans following the race on X, Reddit, or live timing and scoring knew of the incident almost three minutes before they got to see a replay and candidly voiced their displeasure about the major miss.
Delayed interview with race winner Ross Chastain
Unsurprisingly, NBC missing the Bell incident drew criticism from fans online. However, that wasn’t their only complaint. The other came after the race for the network’s interview of race winner Ross Chastain.
It wasn’t the interview itself that was problematic, but the timing.
The watermelon farmer became the first driver in the 10 years of the current playoff format to win the race without contending for the championship. It’s understandable how NBC prioritized talking with the champion before the winning Trackhouse driver.
However, the network decided Chastain’s interview was further down on the list than most expected. Blaney was interviewed four minutes after crossing the finish line. Larson and Byron’s interviews occurred next. The Cup Series trophy presentation followed.
Chastain’s interview occurred 22 minutes after he won the race. It lasted for a minute and 15 seconds.
NASCAR needs to address these issues with the networks
As mentioned, Chastain’s victory was unprecedented, so NBC likely had to call an audible and adjust its post-race schedule when he crossed the finish line ahead of Blaney. But, as fans pointed out in the post-race call-in show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, interviewing the race-winning driver almost 30 minutes later seems a little excessive.
There were opportunities to talk with the winner before the interviews with Larson and Byron and the trophy presentation.
But the more concerning issue happened earlier in the race when the coverage completely missed Bell’s incident. While NBC does regularly implement side-by-side commercials throughout its race broadcast, you would think in the most important race of the year, there would be some special protocol in place that any major race-altering development would warrant cutting into a full-screen or side-by-side commercial.
In this case, the commercial would have been interrupted only a couple of seconds into its airing.
There is some hope that this scenario can be avoided in the future. NASCAR is in the middle of television contract negotiations with the networks. It’s not too late to make requests for what the sanctioning body and its fans would like to see in the future. And when it comes to the championship race, you can only hope officials will put a priority on fans not missing crucial moments like what happened on Sunday.