There are so many things to say about the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix Sunday, in which there was a 27-point swing in the Chase for the Championship standings and Brad Keselowski is leading with one race go, that I won’t.
Instead, I have information about the televising of the U.S. Grand Prix next Sunday.
Many people have written me in the last few days to complain that TSN doesn’t have the F1 race from the brand new Circuit of the Americas circuit outside Austin, Tex., next Sunday on its schedule. Qualifying is scheduled for TSN2 on Saturday at 1 p.m. but there is no listing for the actual race the next day.
Relax, I say. You will be able to see it and, actually, a whole bunch more people will be able to watch it (if they want to) than would be able to if it was on TSN2.
And that’s because it will be live and in colour on Barrie TV station CTV2 (Rogers channel 20). CTV2 is owned by Bell Media, which also owns TSN and TSN2.
Next Sunday, when the F1 race is on in Texas, TSN will be carrying the Argos-Alouettes CFL Eastern Final football game and TSN2 will be televising the final NASCAR race of the season from Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
CTV2 started life in the 1950s as Barrie CBC affiliate CKVR. I worked at the Orillia Packet and Times in the early 1960s and it used to delight us how the news people at the TV station would just cut stories out of the Packet and read them over the air. If there was something really big happening in Orillia, like the Mariposa Folk Festival, CKVR might send a camera crew up Highway 11 to cover it. Otherwise, they’d just "clip and read" out of the paper.
In any event, it went on to become the "New VR" when Moses Znaimer bought it, and then it became "A Channel" after another ownership change and now it’s CTV2.
Most cable subscribers – in fact, maybe even all of them – get CTV2 Barrie as part of their basic cable package. Not everybody gets TSN2 as it’s only available as part of a premium package.
Now, why did TSN (presumably it’s TSN) go to the trouble of asking parent company Bell Media to find another outlet for the F1 race? It’s got the race scheduled to be shown on tape delay later Sunday on TSN2 so why the rush to get it on live?
Because TSN pays good money to buy the Canadian rights to F1, SPEED channel blacks out its signal into Canada as a courtesy when races are run. It also blacks out its signal when qualifying is held because TSN also broadcasts qualifying sessions live.
But SPEED (Rogers cable 409, by the way) shows practice sessions in Canada because TSN doesn’t. (You see where I’m going here, don’t you . . .) You can bet your last dollar that SPEED would see no reason to black out its signal if the U.S. Grand Prix from Austin wasn’t on live television somewhere in Canada next Sunday afternoon.
So TSN, to force SPEED to honour its agreement (it’s a gentleman’s agreement, by the way; there’s no formal contractual agreement forcing SPEED to black out its signal), manoeuvred to get the race slotted into CTV2's schedule in order to protect its Canadian rights and to satisfy its Canadian sponsors.
It will be interesting to see if they promote this.
Check George's TV Listings for Race Fans later this week for SPEED's coverage of practice sessions, F1 Debrief and so-on. And the time that CTV2 will show the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Okay, back to NASCAR and Phoenix, Ariz.
Brad Keselowski went into the race seven points behind Jimmie Johnson and emerged 20 points ahead. That is not a lot; Johnson trailed Denny Hamlin by 15 points in 2010 and still beat him at Homestead to win his fifth straight championship.
Because Johnson had a tire go down and hit the wall, doing enough damage to his car that he had to drop out of the race and go to the garage for repairs. That killed him for this race and might have done him in so far as a sixth championship is concerned.
(An aside: Jimmie "Five Time" Johnson sounds swell, doesn't it? Jimmie "Six Time" Johnson not so much. So if Johnson wins, we’ll likely have to dream up another nickname for him. But I digress . . .)
In the end, Keselowki finished sixth at Phoenix – Kevin Harvick was the winner – and Johnson got back on track in time to officially finish 32nd. If he hadn’t been out there when the checkers waved, the gap would have been wider (more detals, official order of finish).
Now, toward the end of the race all hell broke loose – and, frankly, the way I saw it was that everybody’s frustrations just bubbled to the surface. Nobody really had any reason to be as angry as they seemed to be when fighting broke out.
I suggest NASCAR, in the end, might let everybody off the hook on this one.
It all started when Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer banged fenders. Bowyer’s right rear and Gordon’s left front touched and Gordon banged the wall. Bowyer kept going and Gordon took his time going around to the pits.
Everybody said – and this included Bowyer’s pit crew, who told him over the radio – that Gordon was "waiting" for Bowyer to come around again. As a result, with Gordon low on the speedway mid-way through turn four, Bowyer came up on him and went to pass him on the inside. Gordon turned into him and everybody crashed.
When Gordon went to the pits, Bowyer’s crew went after him and Gordon’s crew defended him. As NASCAR Canada announcer Adam Ross would say, a "brouhaha" ensued.
Several of Gordon’s crew kept him out of the fight and hustled him into his trailer. Bowyer, meantime, jumped out of his car in pit lane and ran into the garage area to get at Gordon, but was seemingly restrained from entering Gordon’s trailer.
Everybody was called onto the carpet in the NASCAR trailer. Competition director Robin Pemberton seemed to suggest later, though, that it was one of those things and there’s only one race left in the season and let’s all let bygones be bygones.
NASCAR traditionally hands out penalties on Tuesdays, so we’ll find out for sure then.
I have questions, however:
– Why was Gordon upset when, it seemed to me, he was as much at fault for the first collision as Bowyer?
– Why did Bowyer go low on the track to pass Gordon on the inside when everybody said Gordon was waiting for him? Why didn’t he go high on the speedway and pass Gordon up there? If he did that, nothing would have happened.
– Why did Bowyer then make an incredible show out of running from pit lane to the garage area at about a million miles an hour, only to stop dead when someone stepped in front of him as he ran up the ramp leading to Gordon’s trailer?
– As a result of the Gordon-Bowyer shenanigans, the race was red-flagged. During the intermission, car owner Richard Childress said on live television that his driver, Harvick, who was in the lead, was short on fuel. The implication was that if the race went beyond a green-white-checkers finish that Harvick would run out.
– Why did NASCAR, which will throw the yellow for all sorts of invisible reasons, let the race continue when, first, debris clearly came off of Gordon’s car when he first tangled with Bowyer and then, second, during the green-white-checkers, Jeff Burton drove right into Danica Patrick, forcing her to hit the wall and dump oil all over the backstretch going into the third turn? (She still finished 17th, for her first top 20 in Cup competition. She was 13th when Burton rammed her.)
In Patrick'a case, there definitely should have been a yellow. But then, maybe Harvick would have run out of fuel . . .
So many questions and so few answers.
As I said, I bet NASCAR doesn’t do anything. Oh, they might fine the crews for fighting but Gordon and Bowyer will likely escape sanctions.
And when everything's all said and done, it’s going to be a dandy finale at Homestead-Miami next Sunday.