Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 58- Road America 200 (or 250?)

by Phil Allaway

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where additional critiques are the name of the game. This week, though, it will serve as the only critique of the week. As I was in Daytona representing Frontstretch, I could not realistically pay attention to the race telecast while “working.”

Brian Till filled in on the telecast for Leigh Diffey, who was taking his U.S. Citizenship test (Diffey is from Australia and commentated on races in what is now the V8 Supercar Championship Series before coming to the United States). Fish and Schroeder continued in their usual roles. Till was slated to serve as a pit reporter for the weekend (and did do so for the Rolex Sports Car Series race that we covered here last week). As a result, Jamie Howe had to work the pits by herself.

The race telecast was chopped up quite a bit. SPEED allotted a two-hour telecast (delayed by nine days) for the race, which actually ran for two hours and 45 minutes. Interesting that the support race was longer than the Rolex Sports Car Series race on Saturday afternoon.

Pre-Race coverage was quite brief. SPEED came on the air with the cars already on track. Till introduced the race broadcast, and his colleagues. Howe gave a brief indication of who was likely to contend from pit road. Howe also read off the top-5 starters for both the GS (Grand Sport) and ST (Street Tuner) classes. Shortly after Howe finished her piece, it was time for the green flag to come out.

SPEED aired the first couple of laps as they happened, then came back out of their first commercial break roughly a half-hour later under a full course yellow for a spectacular crash in Turn 1 that could have been similar to Gunter Schaldach’s wreck the next day had the No. 36 Ford Mustang driven by Eduardo Furlanetto not hit the No. 78 BMW M3 of Lyonel Kent. Kent still ended up on his roof in the Turn 1 trap, regardless.

During that caution, SPEED took the time to recap what viewers missed in that 30 minute stretch in a montage. It seemed that quite a bit of action occurred up front in the GS class during the “break,” including one of the early frontrunners (No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro of Joey Atterbury) spinning off into the wall. Atterbury continued, but that was the last that viewers saw of the No. 62 for the rest of the telecasts.

Upon the race returning to green, SPEED focused on races for position and individual stories. With a 50-car starting field between two classes, races for position weren’t all that hard to find. There was also the obligatory mention of (and interview with) Ken Schrader, who was making his Continental Tire Challenge debut for RSR Motorsports in their No. 195 Mini Cooper S. It should be noted that Schrader is not a complete stranger to sports car racing, having raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona in the past. Granted, it was 25 years ago, but it still happened.

The booth took a strong negative opinion of the shenanigans that took place on the steep uphill exiting the final turn. The wreck resulted in the No. 97 of Joey Hand being turned into the wall and being eliminated from the race, along with the No. 33 of Jade Buford.

Because of the fact that Till was in the broadcast booth, viewers were treated to interviews with drivers conducted by the broadcast booth. I’d argue that this was not necessarily a first, but it was an interesting way to make up for the fact that SPEED didn’t have a second pit reporter available.

I think the split between Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) coverage during the broadcast was something like 75-25 in favor of Grand Sport. I can understand that the GS class is basically the premiere class in the series, but there isn’t quite as much variety in machinery there (BMW M3’s, Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Mustangs of various model years, along with a couple of outliers). Also, the racing in the ST class is just as good, if not better than in the GS class.

The race ended under caution due to a huge crash involving the No. 18 Insight Racing BMW 328i of Nico Rondet exiting Turn 1. Rondet ploughed into the wall at a high rate of speed and actually broke the wall. As a result, the final half-hour was run behind the pace car.

Post-race coverage was also quite brief. There were interviews with GS winners John Edwards and Matt Bell, along with ST winner Nic Jonsson (teammate Mike Galati, who replaced Andy Lally in the No. 10 Kia Forte Koup when Lally’s Sprint Cup obligations made it impossible for him to continue, was not interviewed). The unofficial results for each class ran by in the scroll during the winner’s interviews. That was the only opportunity to check where your favorite drivers (if you have any) finished. There were also checks of the point standings for each class before SPEED left the air. Oh, and if you’re wondering, Ken Schrader managed to bring home the Mini tenth in ST. Not a bad debut.

I was not a fan of how SPEED broke up the telecast. As I mentioned above, a significant portion of the important elements of the race were missed when SPEED cut a half-hour out during a commercial. That just cannot stand. Simple as that. Granted, its nowhere near as bad as SPEED completely screwing up the broadcast of the K&N Pro Series East Army Strong 150 from Bowman-Gray Stadium a while back. In that event, parts of the race were aired out of order, a completely inexcusable mistake that I had seen only once before on television, and that was in Dale Earnhardt’s SportsCentury episode in 2001), but its still pretty bad.

The two hour timeslot really hurts the telecast since SPEED cannot show the entire race due to time constraints. SPEED does have streaming capabilities and does use it for stuff like the Formula One Roundtables and Free Practices Nos. 1 and 3 during race weekends. Granted, those practices are usually in the middle of the night, but it shows that SPEED does have streaming capabilities. SPEED should look into possibly putting the Continental Tire Challenge races on SPEEDtv.com live, or even on SPEED2. The first option puts the series on par with Firestone Indy Lights last year, when races were streamed online live, then aired mid-week on Versus. Of course, if they went the second route, that would put the series on similar footing with the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) coverage-wise. I’ve already ranted this year about how much I dislike the ALMS’ current TV deal, which basically does nothing but hurt the series, regardless of how interesting John Hindhaugh’s commentary is (very in depth and knowledge, while very excitable at the same time). I would greatly prefer the first option. Even with the first option, it would still be possible to maintain the current delayed broadcast schedule, while still allowing fans a chance to see a full broadcast.

Thank you for reading this critique. Next week, I have plenty of content to choose from. Naturally, the three NASCAR events at Kentucky will be covered in Tuesday’s critique at Frontstretch. That would leave either the Izod IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy Toronto, Grand-Am at Laguna Seca, the ALMS at Lime Rock, or a recently announced Darrell Waltrip special to cover. That’s a tough choice. I’ll probably end up doing two for you, my readers. One will be the Izod IndyCar race, on Versus this year instead of ABC. You’ll have to wait and see on the other one. Until then, have a great weekend and enjoy the racing at Kentucky, which starts tonight.

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