NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 56- Raineater Wiper Blades 200

by Phil Allaway

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where I take an additional look at the race broadcasts that we watch. At Michigan, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards served as the tertiary series on the schedule, racing late Friday afternoon at the two-mile “D-Shaped” oval.

SPEED brought viewers time-shifted coverage of the ARCA Racing Series Raineater Wiper Blades 200. What does that mean? It means that the start of the race is slightly tape-delayed, and that a minimal amount of time is missed during commercial breaks. Of course, due to the sheer number of blown tires and wrecks in the 200-miler, there were only three breaks under green where this feature could be used.

Prior to the start of the race, SPEED provided taped pre-race interviews with Ty Dillon and pole-sitter Cale Gale. Those interviews were done by Ray Dunlap and Bob Dillner, who just a few weeks ago was in the broadcast booth at Chicagoland.

Normal commentators Rick Allen and Phil Parsons were back in the booth, but they were joined by Darrell Waltrip. As a result, the usual Waltrip rules that I first wrote about “back in April”: were back in play. Based on what’s occurred since then, I should add caveat No. 4, showing of obvious bias towards a particular driver and/or team to the mix. That is clearly based upon some of the fawning over Kyle Busch.

Regardless, lets take a look. Waltrip did not do his Boogity refrain, and spent most of the telecast giving perfectly good input into the commentary. He did not really step all over Allen and Parsons and was a real help in the booth. Also, there was no fawning over any of the drivers. Waltrip was quite sharp as to who was doing what on the track and who could potentially contend.

Due to the race running somewhat long, Waltrip had to leave the booth with 11 laps to go in order to go tape Trackside Live (which aired immediately after the race telecast ended). That was beyond SPEED’s control. However, before he left, Allen and Parsons thanked Waltrip for his input in a somewhat strange fashion. They congratulated Waltrip on the announcement of his 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction and made themselves sound inferior to Waltrip. It was weird, simple as that. It just wasn’t necessary. Yes, its cool that Waltrip’s going into the Hall of Fame and all in January, but we don’t need to fawn over him.

The rest of the actual race telecast was ok. SPEED brought viewers a pretty good amount of racing for position on track. All of the incidents (and there were many of them) had plenty of replays shown from multiple angles. I had no issues with Allen, Parsons or Waltrip’s commentary. All three of the commentators were quite enthusiastic and seemed to be enjoying the action out on the track.

However, I did have an issue with the coverage. The race was marred by a series of tire issues. The Hoosier tires seemed to be blowing left and right during the race, causing multiple incidents. Now, I already mentioned that SPEED did a good job covering the wrecks, but they did not show any of the shredded tires after they were removed from the cars on pit road. For that matter, they didn’t show any of the tires that had been removed from the cars without blowing either.

As a result, viewers could not tell what was causing the issues, or what a good tire after 30 or so laps looked like. Debris on track could have been playing a role, especially in the first couple of laps following the restart from the second caution (thrown when Chris Buescher’s No. 17 shredded a right-front tire and littered the track with part of his front air dam). However, the rest of the failures might not have had to do with debris. For example, the commentators speculated that Hal Martin’s tire failure had to do with a new bump on the frontstretch created when Michigan International Speedway built a new pedestrian tunnel just past the start-finish line. Admittedly, that was the only time that I heard about that tunnel all weekend. The bump could have caused Martin’s right front tire to hit the fender, thus immediately slicing it. The replay did show that Martin’s No. 55 basically jumped at the bump, then hit the wall. However, we’ve seen tires rubbing against the top of fenders in the past and not blow out. Perhaps, there was another reason as to why the blowouts occurred. Also, if debris was really the problem, why weren’t the sweepers sent out? As it stands, it appears that the issue was all on Hoosier. They really only have one tire for intermediate tracks, and it appears that the construction might not be all the way there.

Since the telecast was already over its timeslot by the time it ended, it could be expected that post-race coverage would be brief. SPEED gave viewers a good amount of coverage, given the circumstances. There were post-race interviews with the top-4 finishers (Dillon, Gresham, George and Hackenbracht), along with checks of the Unofficial Results and Point Standings before SPEED left the air to get to a time-shifted version of Trackside Live.

Aside from the tire issues that I mentioned above, the telecast that SPEED provided was decent. The issues that the Hoosiers had Friday do not reflect well on the company, although it definitely gave the track added impetus for their forthcoming repaving project.

Thank you for reading this TV Critique. Check out next week’s edition of The Critic’s Annex, where I will be covering the Rolex Sports Car Series 250 from Road America. Enjoy this weekend’s road racing goodness.

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