Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, where we take an additional look at motorsports-related programming. Last week, while the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series were both racing in Ridgeway, Virginia, there was a tripleheader at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Now, I’ve already covered NBC Sports Network’s telecast of the Izod IndyCar Series race from Sunday afternoon. That was pretty good. On Saturday afternoon, Grand-Am’s Rolex Sports Car Series took center stage.
However, before we start, SPEED made an announcement just last week pertaining to their Rolex Series coverage. They have announced the addition of Darren Law to their on-air crew as a pit reporter starting at the next round at Road Atlanta. According to SPEED’s press release, Law’s function on the Rolex Series and CTSCC broadcasts will be to cover half of the pit lane, interview drivers and team members, and provide insight based on his own perspective and experience.
Based on the release, Law’s addition to the roster might just be a one-off. Although it doesn’t actually say in the article, Grand-Am’s Road Atlanta round is the only conflict on the schedule between ALMS and Grand-Am. Brian Till, who normally serves as a pit reporter on Grand-Am telecasts, will be in Long Beach to work on ESPN’s ALMS broadcast, which is currently scheduled to air via tape delay on ABC on April 21st (John Hindhaugh and Jeremy West will provide commentary for ESPN3’s live coverage via password-protected streaming).
Up until the end of last season, Law was a regular in the Daytona Prototype class, driving for Brumos Racing and later Action Express Racing. He competed in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, where he finished seventh, 14 laps down. With that said, onto the critique.
As many of you are aware of, SPEED’s airing of the Barrett-Jackson Auction from Palm Beach, FL played havoc with basically everything SPEED was scheduled to air last weekend. No offense, but these auctions just do not appeal to me. I don’t have a problem with the one at WestWorld in Scottsdale, AZ. That doesn’t conflict with anything other than the latest Dumbest Stuff on Wheels marathon. Here, it drives me nuts.
Mike Joy and Bob Varsha are regular participants in the Barrett-Jackson broadcasts, and thus spent time out at the auction. That is why Rick Allen did play-by-play for Sprint Cup Qualifying on Friday. Varsha took over Joy’s hosting duties for Saturday in Palm Beach. That created a conflict since Varsha is the play-by-play man for SPEED’s Grand-Am coverage. What did they do? They had Calvin Fish move over from the analyst’s chair to the play-by-play role. Tommy Kendall, who has more TV experience than you’d think, was tapped as the replacement analyst in the booth.
Also of note, the auction bumped the race from a live broadcast, which is so annoying, especially with Twitter around. The race rolled off at approximately 12:45pm local time on Saturday (the CTSCC race followed at 4:00pm). However, due to the auction, the race was not scheduled to air until 5:30pm EDT on Sunday. Due to the STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville running long, the telecast didn’t even start until 5:55.
The telecast started off with a look at the big stories in the Daytona Prototype and Grand Touring classes coming out of Austin. There was also a brief interview with Andy Lally, who was nudged off the road late in the race and lost his chance to win because of it. There was no video shown of the bump during the Austin race (mainly because SPEED didn’t have any), but Magnus Racing provided SPEED with the proof.
Likely the biggest TV story out of the telecast was Fish’s debut as a play-by-play man. It appears that his strategy from the broadcast was to mainly use the knowledge that he has from the years spent covering the series, and translate that knowledge into commentary. The result was actually not bad. Fish was probably the best choice out of SPEED’s existing Grand-Am commentators to sub for Varsha.
The telecast seemed to be more focused on the Daytona Prototype class, especially earlier in the event. While yes, the Daytona Prototypes are the top class in the Rolex Series, they don’t usually get the amount of focus that they received on Saturday. I was quite lost as to what was going on in GT and GX for most of the race. That’s a shame.
I’m fairly convinced that the high focus on the Daytona Prototype class was one of the reasons why there was absolutely no footage of Michael Marsal’s crash into the Armco barrier. All we know about the crash is that Marsal radioed to his crew and claimed that he spun into the Armco after being hit by a Daytona Prototype. We did get aftermath footage, but nothing else. That’s not so good. I don’t blame Fish for that, but I’d argue that it was a production decision.
Post-race content was typical for a Rolex Series race. There were checks of the unofficial results for the Daytona Prototype, GT and GX classes. There were also interviews with the winning Daytona Prototype (Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli) and GT (Robin Liddell and John Edwards) drivers, along with the Daytona Prototype runner-ups (Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney). There were also checks of the point standings before SPEED left the air.
Overall, I didn’t really enjoy the race telecast as much as I typically do. It wasn’t Fish’s fault, as I thought he did just fine for his debut in the play-by-play role. Kendall, who has worked in the broadcast booth before on Grand-Am races (he usually shows up to do the Rolex 24 at Daytona) was interesting to listen to. There was also a fair amount of interplay between him and Dorsey Schroeder, who were longtime adversaries on-track in IMSA and Trans-Am in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
My issues lay in how the race was covered. It was a lot more restrictive than normal, and I just didn’t like the feel. Even though the race aired as if it was happening in real time, it still seemed tape delayed. That’s just not the feel I want.
I hope you enjoyed this look at the Porsche 250. Next week, we’ll be back with another interesting telecast to break down and take a look at. Until then, enjoy this weekend’s action from Texas, Rockingham and Shanghai.