Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 98- American Ethanol 200 Presented by Hy-Vee

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where recapping and breaking down racing-related programming is the name of the game. Normally, I cover races outside of NASCAR’s three “National” series in this piece. After all, we’re primarily a NASCAR website. However, I believed long before the races were even run last weekend that the MavTV American Real 500 at Auto Club Speedway was ultimately a more important race to cover than the Camping World Truck Series event in Iowa, almost regardless of what happened.

Luckily, we got a pretty good race in Iowa Saturday night. Let’s see how well SPEED did with the telecast.

Before I even start, I should explain that I was having really bad pixilation issues with SPEED throughout both the Setup and the race itself. As you can imagine, this would make it very hard to watch anything. The weird thing is that we had perfect weather here in Upstate New York Saturday night and the Izod IndyCar Series event in Fontana (which aired at the same time) was just fine. However, I don’t believe that this was an issue with everyone. I hope I wasn’t the only one.

The Setup started out with a montage-style look at the six drivers who had claimed their first career victories this year prior to Saturday night (King, Buescher, Justin Lofton, Coulter, Piquet and Ty Dillon). I was fine with this, especially with what eventually happened.

Last year, the SPEED Spotlight was simply a short segment during the pace laps where SPEED’s commentators would draw attention to certain drivers. Just who those drivers were depended on who was in the race, and what stories were breaking that week. Now, the SPEED Spotlight has more or less evolved into an enhanced version of the Radio Recap segment from earlier this season. The result is that less drivers are covered, but those that are will get more coverage.

This week, we learned a little bit about Truck Series debutant Drew Herring, who drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports in their No. 18. This was a great move. While Herring has performed admirably in the Nationwide Series in his rare appearances over the past couple of years, we don’t really know much about him. This piece filled in the gaps a little (the short version is that he’s a late model hotshoe from the Southeast who caught the eye of Denny Hamlin, self-appointed grandmaster of the late models). We also saw Herring working with crew chief Eric Phillips during practice on Friday. This was interesting to watch, probably on a similar level (at least during the practice session) to the one with Parker Kligerman a couple of weeks ago.

There were also six pre-race interviews during the Setup, much higher than normal. Personally, I like this format for the Setup for the rest of the season if there aren’t any bonafide feature pieces. You get a good number of interviews that help SPEED properly preview the race and drivers get airtime.

The race telecast was pretty good. There was plenty of action for position out on the track and SPEED did a great job showing us that action. However, having what amounted to a standalone race meant that the event didn’t get the best footage.

By “best footage,” I mean all of the typical views that you can count on during a race broadcast. Yes, there weren’t too many issues when it came to showing racing for position on track, but when it came to incidents on track, we never seemed to ever get a good view of anything. The best example I can give of this was when Ron Hornaday crashed on Lap 69. At the same time that Hornaday crashed, Augie Grill and Jason White got together and hit the wall exiting Turn 4. We got a decent view of that incident in a replay (SPEED cut to Grill slowing on the frontstretch live, but a little after the wall contact).

In the case of Hornaday, SPEED suddenly cut to Hornaday’s shortened No. 9 Chevrolet and noted that he had crashed and was likely done for the night. I’m not going to dispute the “he’s likely done for the night” statement because it turned out to be the truth. However, the only view that we ended up getting of this crash was from a roof cam. That shot was from quite a distance away and made it look like Nelson Piquet, Jr. got into Hornaday and caused the wreck.

Then, after the green came back out, SPEED aired an interview with Hornaday where the 51-time winner claimed that Piquet never hit him. Instead, he claimed that he just got loose. The booth commentators took this statement from Hornaday at face value and let Piquet off the hook. Piquet ultimately finished the race in sixth, but we didn’t get to see an interview with him. As Piquet has not referenced the incident since the race, we’re generally at a loss as to what really happened. My best guess is that Piquet might have just grazed him entering Turn 1 and spun him. However, this grazing would have been done so lightly so that Hornaday didn’t feel it. Not intentional in the least.

A lesser example of this can be seen when Ryan Lynch spun out on Lap 23 to bring out the first caution. The yellow was thrown, and there was confusion at first as the trucks came around to the yellow. It was only then that the commentators noticed Lynch’s No. 27 facing the wrong direction. The camera angles made it look like the truck was undamaged from the crash. However, you could just make it out on the replay that Lynch nosed into the inside wall, necessitating a brief visit behind the wall for repairs.

The gist of the argument here is that for a standalone event like Saturday night’s truck race, SPEED might not send as many cameras to cover the race. As a result, we might not be able to see as much as we would during a support event. That is nothing short of a shame.

Allen, Parsons and Waltrip did a great job on Saturday night in covering the on-track action. There was plenty of enthusiasm on display, and some amazement of some of the action, especially in and around restarts. I have to admit that some of it was outright insane (I believe that there was a stretch where a group of drivers were four-wide for an entire lap). They’re just a joy to listen to, especially now that Waltrip isn’t talking over everyone all the time.

Since the race ran a little long due to the late cautions, post-race coverage was relatively short. SPEED provided viewers with four post-race driver interviews, additional interviews with the winning crew chief (Doug Randolph) and winning father (Dave Blaney), and a check of the point standings. There was also one gratuitous celebration in which Ryan Blaney was doused with cold water/ice from a cooler in Victory Lane.

I hope you enjoyed this look at SPEED’s coverage of the American Ethanol 200 Presented by Hy-Vee from Saturday night. Stay tuned for next week’s edition, when we’ll bring you a look at SPEED’s Saturday afternoon coverage from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. There is a Whelen Modified Tour race, the F.W. Webb 100, that will be televised live at the very least.

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