The Critic’s Annex 77- Casino Arizona 125

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where we take an additional look at available motorsports-related programming. This past weekend, the K&N Pro Series West held their final race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway as the second race of the day.

That race was scheduled to be aired live on SPEED at 6:30pm EST, following the completion of the Nationwide Series Wypall 200. As you may have seen on Saturday, that race on ESPN 2 ran long and had all post-race coverage booted off the network. Yes, the coverage did not air on ESPN 2 (it was on ESPNEWS). Outside of the United States, those viewers got absolutely no post-race at all. To benefit everyone, SPEED made an eleventh hour decision to move SPEED Center up from 8:00pm EST to 6:30pm in order to provide some coverage, while the race was pushed back to 7:00.

This race was originally supposed to be run in a 90 minute timeslot, but took well over two hours to air. Throughout the race, SPEED had a little graphic below their channel identifier on screen that denoted the race as being live. I wasn’t so sure that it was when I was watching it. It didn’t really look like 45 minutes had passed between the end of the truncated post-race coverage on ESPNEWS and the beginning of SPEED’s coverage. SPEED could easily have just tape delayed the event and showed it in it’s entirety.

That appears to be what happened. Pushing back the start of the telecast by a half-hour allowed SPEED to time-shift the telecast, much like they do with Sprint Cup Qualifying sessions. Probably the best way to be able to tell this was with the one and only commercial break that came during green flag racing. Granted, that was way too early at Lap 7, but it does the job for this explanation. SPEED took a break on the seventh lap, showed roughly two minutes of commercials, then came back a lap later. Also, during the second yellow (this was the yellow for the crash involving Travis Milburn, Cameron Hayley and Jessica Brunelli), SPEED skipped a few laps under yellow by going to commercial. As a result, SPEED’s graphic showing the race as being live was a little misleading.

The telecast started out with a look at K&N Pro Series West Champion Greg Pursley’s season. Basically, it was nothing short of a buttkicking since Pursley managed to win six out of the 13 races entering Phoenix and had already clinched the championship.

During the race, SPEED would try to promote each of the drivers that they had graphics for via social networking. Apparently, most of the drivers in the field, like Pursley, David Mayhew and Dylan Kwasniewski have their own Twitter pages. So, SPEED would put their Twitter handles at the bottom of the graphics with a little red triangle pointing to it. This was interesting. I had never seen that before. I like the idea of SPEED actively trying to inform viewers of up and coming talent. To that degree, SPEED also continued the practice of scouring Twitter for tweets to use on-air. The same cloud graphic that debuted during the WinStar World Casino 350k telecast was used to show these tweets.

In between all the wrecks, SPEED did their best to show racing from throughout the field. This was fairly easy to accomplish early on. However, as the crashes and mechanical issues significantly whittled down the number of competitive cars on track to below 20, this was rather difficult to accomplish. Luckily, us viewers did not miss any important happenings on track.

Rick Allen and Phil Parsons did a great job in bringing viewers the action on track, while Bob Dillner did a yeoman’s job working the pits by himself. At no place was this more evident than during the Halftime Break at Lap 67. During that time, Dillner went up and down pit road conducting interviews, sprinting at times. Let’s just say that Dillner may be a bit uncoordinated while sprinting, but he gets the job done.

Post-race coverage was very brief. SPEED only showed the Unofficial Results of the race and the Victory Lane interview with Ryan Blaney before leaving the air. Since Pursley had already clinched the title, SPEED felt no need to show the final point standings. That was weak because it’s not like Pursley was the only driver running the full schedule. There were other battles for position in the standings that should have been noted upon during the telecast, but were not. It should be noted that the K&N Pro Series both still use the old points system (which should never have been ditched, but that’s another rant for another day). Pursley won by 262 points in a 14 race season. That’s basically annihilation of the field, especially when the team doesn’t have Cup connections. However, behind Pursley, it was a little bit tighter between positions 2-4.

I also would have liked to see more interviews than just Ryan Blaney. Alex Bowman had a great run, as did Chase Elliott, Eric Holmes and Derek Thorn. It could be argued that SPEED carrying K&N Pro Series races is basically a public service, but it is still important that drivers get some exposure. Luckily, no one put their foot in their mouth like Billy Tanner infamously did at Talladega back in 2007 with his “rich kids” rant seemingly directed at Michael McDowell that basically ended his career.

Other than the post-race coverage letdown, I thought that SPEED did a pretty good job covering the madness in Phoenix on Saturday night. Since the track had been reconfigured, no one really knew what to expect in the race, and the K&N Pro Series West drivers put on an entertaining show when they weren’t crashing. I’d just prefer some more post-race coverage next time out.

I hope you liked this look at the Casino Arizona 125. Next week will be the final edition of the Critic’s Annex of the season. It will look at the special three hour edition of NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot that will air on Sunday starting at 11am. Until then, enjoy Ford Championship Weekend from Homestead.

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