Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 95- UNOH Perfect Storm 150

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where I take an additional look at motorsports-related programming. Normally, this piece covers a race telecast that runs the weekend prior that I simply could not fit into the regular critique. Not so this week. While the Camping World Truck Series raced last night in a rather short 200-lap race (it was done in about 80 minutes), the Whelen Modified Tour and the Whelen Southern Modified Tour had a combination race that served as the preliminary event on the docket.

As of right now, last night’s UNOH Perfect Storm 150 is the only Modified race scheduled to be televised at all in 2012, at least according to the listings at NASCAR Home Tracks, NASCAR’s website for the regional divisions (K&N East and West, the Canadian Tire Series, etc.). That, of course, is a dang shame, simple as that. Some of the best races out there involve these two Modified series, especially the two races each year at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

For a race like this one, SPEED tends to bring out their most knowledgable personalities about the class. No shooting the race and recording commentary in post-production here. Mike Joy and the semi-retired Dick Berggren were in the broadcast booth for SPEED. This is easily the best duo to have upstairs for a race like this. Joy doesn’t spend a lot of time in the Northeast these days, but still has lots of information about the series and their drivers. Berggren is also well-versed in Modified racing. The duo was a joy to listen to. They’re both very enthusiastic about this type of racing and it shows in their commentary.

Prior to the race, there was a pre-race interview with Mike Stefanik and a recap of qualifying, where Donny Lia busted up the “Mystic Missile” and was forced to race Todd Szegedy’s backup car (Note: If you’re wondering who Tim Connolly, who drove the No. 24 for SR2 Motorsports in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen is, he drove the aforementioned Missile back in the 1990’s and was very successful). Now, this race was advertised as being aired live. However, I believe that the race was time-shifted, at least early on. The red flag for the big pileup was reported as being 13 minutes long. It seemed more like five minutes. Mind you, there was a commercial in there, but it wasn’t an eight-minute break. However, the various yellows and two red flags (three if you count the Halftime Break) pushed the race long, so it was completely live by the end.

During that first yellow, SPEED showed pictures of some old-school Modifieds from Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl (a couple of short tracks in Northeast Connecticut that are within 30 miles of each other). Those pictures from between the 1940’s and 1960’s showed off the old days of Modified racing. In reality, there really wasn’t all that much of a difference between pavement and dirt Modifieds until the mid-to-late 1970’s.

Joy explained that the main reason why the race had a Halftime Break is so that teams didn’t need to spend extra money on ultra-fast pit crews. That’s fine and all. However, Bob Dillner probably should not get in the way of the jackman during a stop. I feel like Szegedy’s jackman was about to give Dillner a forearm shiver while he was trying to do an interview. While I have no problem with doing interviews during the Halftime Break, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Can’t get in the way of the crews doing their work. I’d argue that that’s day one-type stuff.

Also of note, SPEED did have their scroll in use for the race. However, it was only there part-time. As a result, Joy and Berggren had to keep viewers informed of the running order audibly, something that happens only sparingly in telecasts that are usually covered here. Luckily, both Joy and Berggren are longtime veterans of race commentary, so they were able to take care of that without a problem.

Since the race ran so long, post-race coverage was limited. There was an interview with the winner, Ron Silk, along with a check of the Unofficial Results before SPEED moved on to NCWTS Setup.

As sad as this sounds, the Modifieds are the only series in NASCAR (at least the only series that are still around) that have not benefitted from SPEED’s commitment to NASCAR. The two series received limited coverage on the network via tape delay, than got farmed out to Versus (now the NBC Sports Network). You might remember those telecasts as being the ones where Jimmy Spencer served as an expert analyst (yes, he’s a former champion in Modifieds, but he’s also Jimmy Spencer). Versus didn’t return for 2011, so the series got limited coverage on SPEED and I’m confident that 2012 will be the least televised season in over 20 years for the series.

As a result of this lack of coverage, SPEED’s telecast took an educational slant. Yes, I’m familiar with the series, but a lot of race fans no longer are. Some of the drivers (Szegedy, Lia, Stefanik) have raced in the upper levels of NASCAR in the past. Lia won the Camping World Truck Series Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park in 2008, while Szegedy nearly got crushed by a giant orange in 2004 at Chicagoland Speedway. Ryan Newman is Ryan Newman.

I did enjoy watching the race on SPEED. However, it seems like even though the Camping World Truck Series race (the UNOH 200) was right after this event, some of the production staff that SPEED had at the track chose not to work the telecast. I know they only had two in-car cameras, which meant that one controller from BSI could take a powder break, but it seems like half the replay officials were out enjoying a pizza or something. A number of the incidents in the race didn’t even have any replays to help viewers figure out what the deuce happened. Since there was so much going on in the race, Joy and Berggren were often focusing on something else when these wrecks happened.

That’s all for this week. Check out next week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, when I’ll take a look at the NBC Sports Network’s telecast of the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Until then, enjoy the racing this weekend from Bristol and Sonoma.

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