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The Critic’s Annex 111- Ryan Hunter-Reay: An American Champion

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where we take an additional look at motorsports-related programming. For this week’s edition, there were quite a few choices for me to write about. However, I chose to cover NBC Sports Network’s special on Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending Izod IndyCar Series Champion.

This particular 30-minute show premiered on March 21st, prior to the season opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida. However, circumstances at the time did not allow me to properly cover the piece for last week’s edition of the Annex. Now, I bring you the delayed look at NBC Sports Network’s Hunter-Reay show.

Admittedly, I was expecting something more along the lines of a season recap from Hunter-Reay’s perspective when I first heard about the show. That is not what we got here. Instead, there was a brief recap of Hunter-Reay’s charge to the championship in the second half of the 2012 season, including clips from the races in Baltimore and Fontana. Honestly, such a setup would give someone just watching the show on a DVR vibes as if the NBC Sports Network pulled a fast one and started the show 20 minutes early. Of course, that was not the case.

After the brief recap, the show cuts to early December in Indianapolis, just prior to the Izod IndyCar Series Banquet. Andretti Autosport is unveiling their 2013 liveries and Hunter-Reay is a bit apprehensive about giving up the No. 28, knowing what the number represents (the number of people currently suffering from cancer). However, he slowly warms to the idea. Also, there’s a humorous moment when he tries to put on his championship ring, but it won’t fit.

We see Hunter-Reay trying to write his championship speech, which he would recite on stage at the banquet, while muttering that he has no clue how he would have been able to do it if the banquet was the day after the last race. This is a reference to the Izod IndyCar Series’ plan for 2011. Had the Izod IndyCar World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gone off without a hitch, the plan was to have the banquet on Monday, October 17th, 2011 in Las Vegas. After what ultimately happened, everyone skipped town as soon as they could and the banquet was cancelled. Hunter-Reay and his wife, Beccy Gordon (Robby’s sister), talk about how he’s going to set up his speech, while also talking about Beccy’s ongoing pregnancy (apparently, she feels like she’s carrying a beach ball).

Finally, we get to the banquet itself. Hunter-Reay handles interviews with gathered media members (which seem to be from local affiliates in Indianapolis), and talk to various IndyCar personalities. Then, it’s the moment of truth. Speech time. It seems to go ok. Hunter-Reay’s teammates rushed the stage partway through to give him the “Teammate of the Year Award,” which was literally the Table 28 marker. Finally, Hunter-Reay thanked his parents, Beccy and remembered Dan Wheldon.

The show closed with Hunter-Reay talking about his newborn son, Ryden, who was born on December 28th, during Spring Training at Sebring International Raceway. At that time, I suppose that he was still getting used to the idea of being a father. However, he was still very happy and content with his home life. Regardless, he knows that everyone else wants his butt on a platter in 2013, so he’s trying as hard as he possibly can to repeat.

Since this was a 30-minute show, including commercials, there really wasn’t a whole lot of content here. The speech prep and recitation took up almost two segments of the show, leaving little else to cover. I would have liked to know more about our reigning Izod IndyCar Series Champion. What does he do when he isn’t racing? I suppose child rearing takes up a good amount of that time now, but there’s just nothing here. From the show I watched, all I learned is that he’s a new father, and he’s a wreck when it comes to writing speeches. That’s not a whole lot to go on. Sadly, the lack of exposure for the series’ drivers has been an ongoing issue for years. You never heard much about Wheldon before he died. I thought he was a very skilled driver and well-respected, but didn’t really know much else about him. It was only after he died that I read about his borderline OCD tendencies, his unfailing friendliness, and just how much he was beloved by anyone involved with the series. For lack of better words, the guy was exquisite, and most fans didn’t know it. That’s a shame.

We also didn’t hear from many people other than Hunter-Reay on the show. The only people that were given on-air interview time here were Hunter-Reay, Gordon, Michael Andretti (Hunter-Reay’s boss, for lack of better words), and Tony Kanaan, who talked about Hunter-Reay in the final segment. The whole show just left me wanting more content. It just wasn’t satisfying.

I hope you liked this look at Ryan Hunter-Reay: An American Champion. Check out next Thursday’s edition of the Frontstretch Newsletter for another edition of the Critic’s Annex. Until then, enjoy this weekend’s action from Barber Park and Martinsville.

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