Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 108- NextEra Energy Resources 250

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where we take an additional look at motorsports-related programming. The original grandmaster plan was to cover SPEED’s Richard Petty special that premiered on February 18th. However, Saturday’s savage crash at Daytona put the kibosh on that. Substantial emphasis had to be placed on how the networks handled that situation. As a result, I’ll cover SPEED’s special next week.

For today, we cover the season opener for the Camping World Truck Series on SPEED. 2013 sees essentially no changes to the broadcasts from 2012, and no real change to the style of racing at Daytona as well. How did SPEED do Friday night? Let’s find out.

The 2012 Camping World Truck Series season was a battle of epic proportions. There were multiple drivers in contention for the championship right up to the season finale in Homestead, and a record 16 different drivers (including nine first time winners) visited Victory Lane. So naturally, SPEED’s first move was to review the 2012 season, montage-style. I’m not against that, but I could see it coming a mile away.

Ray Dunlap, who might be a little more well-known in the sports community since his “attempted interview with Mike Stefanik last week went viral”:http://deadspin.com/5985610/adult-race-car-driver-turns-into-pouty-baby-during-post+race-interview, gave a brief review of all the various driver changes and team changes that have taken place in the offseason. I thought it was ok, but I don’t think he gave enough explanations of why certain people are off the board. Most notably, Justin Lofton, who was in the race. In his case, he’s going to be running in Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks in addition to Camping World Truck races. “According to the schedule”:http://stadiumsupertrucks.com/ssts/tour/, there are three same day conflicts and a number of same weekend, but different day races. Missing three races means he won’t be able to compete for the title, but he’ll still be a threat whenever he shows up.

In addition, there was a brief piece where drivers described their final thoughts before the command to start engines. Unfortunately, this didn’t really work out all that well. Most of the drivers talked about not being able to hear the command, which took the sails out of the piece.

The primary feature of the Setup was a feature with defending Camping World Truck Series Champion James Buescher…narrated by James Buescher. The idea behind the piece was Buescher talking about how he can repeat as champion in 2013. Buescher came off as determined in the piece, but also boring at the same time. That’s gotta be a new one. As a result, the footage from last season ended up being the lynchpin.

Luckily for us viewers, this was a restrictor plate race. As a result, it’s very difficult for SPEED to miss much of the action on the track. SPEED (even though it is part of News Corporation) also tends not to zoom in quite as tight as FOX does in their telecasts. Therefore, you can see just a little bit more.

There was more than the appropriate amount of enthusiasm out of the broadcast booth during the telecast as well, which makes the telecast that much better to watch. I know a lot of my readers get irritated with Michael Waltrip’s constant presence on telecasts. Here, he’s just not as insufferable as he is on FOX. Maybe it’s just me being used to him that I don’t feel the need to constantly rake him over the coals every week for everything under the sun. I would be stretching to do it. I can deal with Michael now.

On the business side of things, Friday night’s race marked the first Camping World Truck Series since NASCAR acquired their own website. Here’s a true fact regarding the website: 2013 will be the first full season that NASCAR has ever run their own website. ESPN basically started it in 1996 and ran it until 2000. NASCAR operated it for a few months in 2001, then sold it to Turner Sports, who operated it through the end of last year. Obviously, that lack of website experience shows. While they’ve come up with a nice looking site and a nice app (NASCAR Mobile ’13), they’ve got problems up the yin yang. You’ve probably already heard about the RaceView quagmire, so I’m not going to rehash here.

Friday was the first time that NASCAR has a live leaderboard available on their website for the Camping World Truck Series. It’s about time. I had wanted that on TruckBuddy for years. Unfortunately, it came at a cost. There’s no more TruckBuddy. As TruckBuddy is owned by Turner Sports, they picked it up and went home. No more streaming shots, in-truck cameras and battle cams. Sad thing is, TruckBuddy was the easiest form of RaceBuddy for me to use. It was less graphically intensive, and synced to SPEED’s broadcast (that’s huge). RaceBuddy for Sprint Cup and Nationwide has been so slow and annoying that I basically can’t use it anymore, and that’s a shame. It seems so weird not being able to see action during the commercials. Hopefully, NASCAR can come up with something to appease Truck fans.

There was a bit of bad editing during the caution for the big wreck around Lap 55 when SPEED aired an audible F-bomb from Buescher’s spotter in a replay. My thoughts on that are simple. If it’s something like a live interview, or a crewmember swearing while checking out their stricken car, that’s one thing. It’s a whole ‘nother thing if you have three to five minutes to get rid of that F-bomb, and you fail to do it. TNT screwed up like that a few years ago when Kyle Petty got spun out at Sonoma by Marc Goossens when serving as a “in-car reporter.” Oops. That’s inexcusable.

Compared to previous truck races in Daytona, Friday night’s race ended quite early. SPEED had about 20 minutes that they could fill. Did they use up their slot? No! They chose to do a few post-race interviews, then skedaddle to the sneak preview of RU Faster Than a Redneck? What the heck, man? I know SPEED’s been pimping that show all winter, but couldn’t it have waited until the appropriate start time. C’mon. I felt shafted. Also, Jon Reep irritates me.

In regards to RU Faster Than a Redneck, it tangentially relates to motorsports. If you guys want me to sit down and review the show for you, I will. I just really feel for Ken Squier. Why the heck was he there with Reep screaming over the top of him with platitudes that make him look like a complete idiot? And who gave Reep a show? I suppose we’ll never know.

That’s all for this week. Next week, we’ll finally sit down and look over SPEED’s Richard Petty special, Richard Petty: A Racer’s Life. Until then, enjoy this weekend’s action from Phoenix and Austin.

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