How will SRX’s broadcast crew work out?
This week, CBS Sports announced its on-air talent for their broadcasts of Superstar Racing Experience this summer.
The six-race season, held over six consecutive Saturday nights, will be anchored by Allen Bestwick as the play-by-play announcer and Lindsey Czarniak as the host of the program. Brad Daugherty has signed on as the roving analyst; my impression is that he will be in the Rutledge Wood/Michael Waltrip role of walking around and highlighting the track.
Matt Yocum, who was just let go from Fox Sports after 20 years, will be the lone pit road reporter. Finally, three big names — Danica Patrick, James Hinchcliffe and Dario Franchitti — will join Bestwick as driver analysts, covering two races each.
This is probably the best team they could have gotten. Bestwick was arguably the best racing announcer in America, even without a regular gig. Really, the only weak spot on the lineup is that of driver analyst, as Hinchcliffe and Franchitti aren’t big names renowned for their broadcast ability, but getting Patrick was a big plus for CBS.
I’m interested in this series. While the driver roster is lacking somewhat and really needs one more big name like Matt Kenseth or even Greg Biffle, the car looks interesting, and so does the schedule. There should probably be more drivers per race, more races in general and maybe it shouldn’t run on the deadest night television-wise. But there seems like there could be a solid foundation for all of that in the future if this first season ends up becoming a success.
The usage of so many NTT IndyCar Series drivers, on both the broadcast side and and the competition side (seven out of its 10 full-time drivers have competed in the Indianapolis 500), is interesting, considering the NBC news this week.
What is the future between NBC and IndyCar?
While there’s a chance that NBC decided that Tracy and his … unique brand of commentary really could be phased out, it wouldn’t be shocking if NBC isn’t going to renew its contract with IndyCar, which expires at the end of this year. NBC Sports Network is shutting down, and it’s questionable if IndyCar could work on Peacock.
The simple reality of IndyCar is that the Indianapolis 500 is still a huge television event. But the individual IndyCar events, while still OK by cable television standards, is too niche to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars like NASCAR and probably wouldn’t add enough new subscribers to Peacock to justify that big contract. And the 500 is too big not to be on network television.
Look at what NBC is spending on now. In addition to spending billions on the NFL as with most media companies, NBC has also bought out the WWE Network, will spend more money on the NHL, have a big contract with Premier League and is too wrapped up with NASCAR at this point not to renew next year. IndyCar probably isn’t a concern for the company compared to all of this.
CBS, meanwhile, will be producing racing this year with a competent team of broadcasters after decades of not doing so on a large scale. Going through the list of potential suitors for IndyCar, CBS on the surface seems like a decent fit. Time Warner isn’t going to get back into racing and The CW isn’t a big enough network for the 500. I can’t imagine Fox jumping on board to broadcast a good 12 hours of racing on Memorial Day. Disney has the resources to wave its hands and bring a racing broadcast production team again, but is it worth it? Especially considering it has Sky’s groundbreaking production of Formula 1 already attracting the same niche that IndyCar would bring?
NBC isn’t going to get out of racing now. Lost Speedways and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s contract with the company to do various sports events would make it hard to do so. But IndyCar may well find itself on the cutting room floor there, and it may well find a home at CBS.
One other thing CBS has that NBC doesn’t is the sheer amount of cable channels it still has, in addition to Paramount+. There’s actually a chance that CBS could with take with those channels the Roger Penske-owned racing series that no major series has ever done before in the world: weekly weeknight racing.
The 500 will stay on Memorial Day Sunday forever, and some street courses like St. Petersburg would need to stay on the weekend. But why not take a gamble and broadcast two hour races on Thursday night over 12 weeks in the summertime? The series has a number of options for night races or locally late afternoon West Coast races. Best case scenario would be that IndyCar attracts a newer, younger fanbase that would actually stay with the series as appointment viewing. Worst case? It just moves back to the weekend races and bring back its same audience like nothing happened.
Who at NBC had the bright idea to schedule Jimmie Johnson’s IndyCar debut head-to-head with the Cup race this week, when it very easily could have been run at 1 p.m.?
Weeknight racing would also stop conflicts like this from happening. Come on, guys. This is just dumb.
Who will win at Richmond Raceway this weekend?
Richmond Raceway is a very peculiar short track. While the track still produces close-quarters racing, drivers have more space to operate and more lanes to race in than Martinsville Speedway last weekend. I don’t think over 100 laps will be contested under caution like last Sunday’s race.
Toyota has been dominant recently at the Virginia three-quarter-mile track, winning seven of the last 10 Cup races at Richmond. That being said, Brad Keselowski’s Ford was able to win the only Cup event at the short track last year and led almost half of the race by doing so.
One driver that could make some big gains on a daily fantasy team this weekend is Austin Dillon. Dillon had one of his best races of the 2020 season there last fall, during which the No. 3 Chevrolet led 55 laps and was competitive all night before finishing fourth.