by Phil Allaway
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where I provide additional critiques for races that simply cannot fit in the regular critique. Last week, Marion County hosted a sextuple-header of racing. I’ve already covered the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series races at Lucas Oil Raceway in the regular critique.
However, the night before the Camping World Truck Series teams rolled in, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards had their own 200 lap race. It was pretty exciting to watch in it’s own right.
SPEED provided coverage Thursday night from Clermont, Indiana, but they did it via tape-delay. The race actually started a little after 7pm, but SPEED chose to run their typical Thursday night edition of NASCAR RaceHub. I don’t really understand the move. I guess RaceHub gets higher ratings than ARCA races, perhaps? With the exception of last year’s Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona when Danica Patrick made her stock car racing debut, ratings for ARCA telecasts are generally very difficult to find. I guess it would explain why the series has dropped down to barely ten broadcasts a year. They’re barely on television any more than they were in the late 1990’s.
Following RaceHub, SPEED brought viewers a mini pre-race show. That consisted of a recap of qualifying (held about three hours before the race started), and interviews with the front row starters (Ty Dillon and Ryan Blaney). After a break, there was the command to start engines, then the start of the race.
During the event, a lot of the coverage was focused on the frontrunners. If you were running below seventh or eighth, you were invisible. Having said that, there was some decent racing up front.
The tape-delay led to some quirky coverage. For example, the first yellow came out due to Benny Chastain spinning out in Turn 1. There was no replay shown of the accident, which occurred during a commercial break. This originally led me to believe that SPEED’s cameras missed it, like what actually happened Saturday night during the Nationwide race (still inexcusable for ESPN, but I digress).
Turns out that SPEED either didn’t have the time to show a replay of what happened, or didn’t feel like it because they did have footage. Remember that whenever SPEED televises an ARCA race, Chastain’s No. 75 always has an in-car camera (that is, if his No. 75 is in the race). SPEED just decided to hold the footage until a race recap on Lap 115. I don’t get it. That is patently ridiculous. Its even worse knowing that Chastain was eliminated in another wreck (with Kenzie Ruston) before that recap even aired. That is most definitely something that I do not want SPEED to repeat ever again, regardless of what track they’re at.
Another strange instance was when Matt Crafton was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 53 for tires. Viewers could see Crafton’s No. 88 Ford (sponsored by Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper and Menards) coming into the pits as SPEED was going off to a break. I’m surprised that no mention was made of Crafton (who was running well at the time) pitting before the break. The fact that it wasn’t mentioned until five laps after they returned from break was even more mind-boggling. Also, Rick Allen mentioned that Crafton had pitted during the break when we saw him pit before it. Not good.
SPEED’s tape-delay allowed them to artificially adjust how much time is missed during commercial breaks. After some of the breaks, as little as a lap passed. However, one normal length break resulted in viewers missing 15 laps, or roughly double what we would have missed in real time. There was simply no rhyme or reason to what SPEED was doing.
Granted, SPEED’s broadcast wasn’t without a classic interview or two. After he was eliminated in a chain-reaction crash on a restart, Tim George, Jr. stated that Chad Hackenbracht had too much NOS in either himself or his car (probably himself). That made me chuckle a bit. George, for his part, kept a highly positive attitude after the wreck on TV, and on Twitter.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief. There were interviews with winner Dillon and second-place finisher James Buescher. There was also a quick check of the point standings (which Dillon is absolutely dominating at the moment) before SPEED left the air.
As you’ve read above, SPEED gave viewers a rather disjointed ARCA broadcast. At times, SPEED sticks the ARCA Racing Series telecasts with a “B-Team” production crew instead of the regulars, but I haven’t seen production values like this since about 2001, when Speedvision aired tape-delayed races on Wednesday nights. Back then, that was how the series got all 20 or so races televised.
Despite the substandard production values, Allen and Phil Parsons brought their typical game to the broadcast booth. Even though the coverage was very much focused on the frontrunners, there was plenty of enthusiasm to go around.
I hope you enjoyed this look at SPEED’s telecast of the Ansell Protective Gloves 200. Stay tuned for another edition of the Annex in next Thursday’s edition of the Frontstretch Newsletter. What will be covered there is somewhat dependent on how SPEED sets up their combination ARCA and Camping World Truck Series telecast Saturday afternoon. If it is one combined broadcast with similar production values, then I will cover those two races together in a special doubleheader section in Tuesday’s critique. In that case, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be covered here. If not, the ARCA race will be seen in this space. Until then, enjoy the action this weekend in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, Newton, Iowa, and Lexington, Ohio.
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