Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where we take an in-depth look of motorsports telecasts. Let’s just say that it is rather difficult to actually put together a column for today since there was absolutely no live racing on television last weekend. SPEED2 did have some live racing from the Circuit Paul Armagnac near Nogaro, France, but I don’t think a lot of you have access to that service.
As a result, I had to rely on tape-delayed telecasts for races to break down and look at for you. SPEED provided two such events on Sunday afternoon (April 8) to take your eyes away from South African golfers getting an albatross and not being able to close the deal.
Before I start, I want to note that I critiqued the first episode of IndyCar 36 for last week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex in our Newsletter. Now, the Izod IndyCar Series has made the program available for viewing on the all-powerful Youtube. To view the first episode featuring Tony Kanaan, go here.
Gotta say, I like this idea, especially since a lot of viewers often have a hard time finding the NBC Sports Network in their cable/satellite/telco systems, or don’t get it at all.
Sunday afternoon saw SPEED bring us coverage of the Barber 200, the second race of the season for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park. Let’s just say that the beginning of this race was ridiculous.
Pre-race coverage was minimal. When SPEED’s telecast began from Barber, the cars were already out on the track. Diffey, Calvin Fish and Dorsey Schroeder talked a little about the race and the impending carnage that was likely to occur. There was also discussion of the big stories in both the Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) classes.
Seventy-five cars split between two classes on a 2.38-mile natural terrain road course is more than likely too many cars. Then again, they were the tertiary class at Barber Motorsports Park, so you race when you can. Oh well.
In real time, it took nearly an hour to complete one lap under green. I’ll admit that I watched the race live on SPEED2 back on March 31 when the race actually ran. SPEED2 telecasts are similar to satellite feed telecasts (no commercials, no mercy). As a result, we can hear everything going on. There are certain segments that aren’t commentated on because they won’t make the actual SPEED telecast.
However, Diffey took the time to apologize to viewers for the constant wrecking. The fear in the booth was that this race was going to be a repeat of the VIR round in 2006. That race, held in the rain with an 82-car grid (90 entered, but 82 started) on a 3.27-mile circuit, was a wreck-fest to end all wreck-fests. Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad.
And that brings us to the question of the day. I want to see how many of you actually have access to SPEED2. As of right now, SPEED2 is only available to customers of Time Warner Cable, Cox Cable, Cablevision’s Optimum Cable, Bright House Networks and Dish Network.
In Time Warner’s case, they require you to subscribe to the Digital Sports Tier to have access to SPEED in general. However, if you subscribe to SPEED, you get access to SPEED2. There will be a poll that asks whether you can get access.
Once the race finally got started with roughly 63 cars remaining, SPEED brought viewers plenty of racing for position. Of course, with a field as large as what we ultimately had, its a little hard to avoid showing side-by-side action.
Diffey, Fish and Schroeder did a great job showing off the on-track action and keeping order within the generalized chaos. Schroeder stated for the record that the multi-class setup of this race had absolutely nothing to do with the amount of wrecking (all the big wrecks occurred in the GS class).
There were also plenty of in-race interviews with drivers in the pits, including those knocked out of the race in the many wrecks and those who either just gotten out, or were about to get into the car. Andy Lally made an interesting point here, stating that he wished that everyone had in-car cameras, front and back. He thought that it would make for the craziest videos ever.
For reference purposes, SPEED typically has six in-car cameras for CTSCC races, mostly in the ST class (both Kinetic Autosport Kia Forte Koups and the Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5s, along with a couple of others). I’d tend to agree with Lally. Boris Said would agree as well. If you ever make it to a Grand-Am race weekend, don’t sleep on the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. It is insane.
Post-race coverage was fairly brief. There were checks of the top-10 finishers in each class and interviews with the class winners (Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb in GS, Gregory Liefooghe and David Levine in ST) before SPEED left the air.
Despite the constant crashing, SPEED put together a pretty good telecast. Yes, they had their talking points that they covered (most notably, Rum Bum Racing’s switch from the BMW M3 to the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup despite the M3 being a winning car many times over), but covering those talking points did not get in the way of covering what was going on out on the track.
In NASCAR telecasts, those talking points have caused problems in the past. Not so here. We had a very exciting race telecast and an exciting race. There isn’t much more that I can ask for. Homestead in three weeks will likely have another huge entry (as of Monday afternoon, 63 cars are entered for that race), so look for that race on SPEED in early May (or live on SPEED2, if you can get it, on April 28 prior to the Sprint Cup race from Richmond).
For the V8 Supercar Championship Series, the Tasmania Challenge at Symmonds Plains Raceway (just 18 miles south of Launceston, the hometown of Marcos Ambrose) is just the second points weekend of the season.
They’ve already raced twice previously, but the races at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne (which weren’t shown here in the United States since it is covered under a different TV contract) were non-points exhibitions with big bucks on the line.
The Seven Network’s telecast started out with a number of different drivers (James Courtney, Shane van Gisbergen, Lee Holdsworth, etc.) talking about how competitive the series has become. There was a montage-style recap of the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide in order to set up the current points.
Following a brief look at the 1.5-mile Symmonds Plains Raceway layout (I personally compare the design to a Kiwi bird), there was a recap of the qualifying session, where average speeds reached over 104 mph. Also, speaking of Ambrose, he gave his own introduction to the race. As it is his home track, Ambrose had plenty to add about its overall difficulty.
For 2012, the Seven Network ditched the three-dimensional Starting Grid graphic in favor of a cleaner setup that I believe debuted last year at the Armor All 600k in Surfer’s Paradise (as you may remember, Sunday’s race was aired live on SPEED last fall). I’m in favor of this. The previous setup was just way too busy for my tastes.
If you remember my pieces last year on the Seven Network’s V8 Supercar coverage, I often talked about a substantial focus at the very front of the field, resulting in missing certain things. It took all of a couple of laps before that became an issue once again. On the first lap, Rick Kelly and Courtney collided and spun, dropping both drivers to the back of the field (they never actually recovered from the incident).
It took three laps for viewers to see what the deuce happened. Meanwhile, Mark Skaife’s hung out on a limb, sounding like a moron. We can’t have that. Makes the whole affair look low rent. As much as I want to blame Skaife for that, it’s not his fault. Fault here lies solely on the production here.
Following the first 10 laps of the race, coverage was centered upon no more than six or seven cars. I’ll name those drivers here to save time. They were Ford Performance Racing teammates Mark Winterbottom, Will Davison and David Reynolds (via partnership with Rod Nash Racing), Triple Eight Racing teammates Craig Lowndes and Whincup, and if you were lucky, Stone Brothers Racing’s van Gisbergen and Taz Douglas for Lucas Dumbrell Racing.
Pretty sad, to be honest. Maybe the full coverage of the race (not available in the United States) was more inclusive. I don’t know.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief. We were shown a look at the complete unofficial results and an interview with winner Davison before SPEED went to commercial.
Prior to race two, Ambrose returned for a brief wrap-up of the first race (remember, weekends with two races typically see one race on Saturday and another on Sunday) before cutting to a recap of race two qualifying. Also note that Ambrose is doing his stand-ups this season in SPEED’s Charlotte studios instead of at whatever track he’s at that weekend.
Sadly, the first part of the second race was more of the same from race one. Very limited number of drivers got any real coverage at all. However, I do give some kudos to the crew for their commentary of the incident between Davison and Lowndes. They pointed out that Davison had understeered a couple of turns previously, which put Lowndes into proper position to at least consider a passing maneuver.
However, what happened at the ultra-tight hairpin was questionable at best.
Thankfully, the second half of the race was a little more inclusive in which drivers got some coverage. We got to see some action from further back in the pack with drivers that otherwise weren’t mentioned much. It’s a nice change.
Post-race coverage after race two was a little more detailed than what we got after race one. We got a check of the unofficial results and interviews with race winner Whincup and Davison. There was also a check of the points standings before the telecast ended.
If you thought that FOX and ESPN have issues being inclusive in their race telecasts, then the Seven Network one-ups both of them. They appear to cover the races the same way that they covered Bathurst in the 1980s. Plenty of in-car coverage, but not very inclusive. That needs to change. There are 28 teams in these races, not seven or eight.
That’s all for this week, folks. After last weekend’s nothing, we have a full weekend of action on tap. The Sprint Cup Series is back in action at Texas Motor Speedway, while the Nationwide Series is back in their normal subservient role. Meanwhile, it is high times for the Camping World Truck Series as they headline in Rockingham and the Izod IndyCar Series is in Long Beach for one of their crown jewel events.
Thursday, April 12
Time Telecast Network
5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
10:00 – 11:30 p.m. Formula 1 Grand Prix of China Free Practice No. 1 SPEEDtv.com^
Friday, April 13
Time Telecast Network
2:00 – 3:30 a.m. Formula 1 Grand Prix of China Free Practice No. 2 SPEED
3:00 – 4:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour SPEED
4:30 – 6:00 p.m. World Challenge: St. Petersburg NBC Sports Network*
5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Nationwide Series Qualifying SPEED%
6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying SPEED
8:00 – 8:30 p.m. NASCAR Countdown ESPN2
8:00 – ~9:15 p.m. American Le Mans Series at Long Beach Qualifying WatchESPN.com$
8:30 – 11:00 p.m. Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 ESPN2
11:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. Formula 1 Grand Prix of China Free Practice No. 3 SPEEDtv.com^
Saturday, April 14
Time Telecast Network
2:00 – 3:30 a.m. Formula 1 Grand Prix of China Qualifying SPEED
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. NASCAR Now, Pre-Race ESPN2
2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals CBS*@
4:30 – 5:00 p.m. SPEED Center, NASCAR Pre-Race Edition SPEED
5:00 – 7:00 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco SPEED
6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Izod IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network*
7:00 – 7:30 p.m. FOX Pre-Race Delivered by Pizza Hut FOX
7:30 – 10:00 p.m. American Le Mans Series at Long Beach ESPN2, WatchESPN.com$
7:30 – 11:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 FOX
~11:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane SPEED
Sunday, April 15
Time Telecast Network
2:30 – 5:00 a.m. Formula 1 Grand Prix of China SPEED
12:30 – 1:00 p.m. NCWTS Setup SPEED
1:00 – 3:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 SPEED
3:00 – 3:30 p.m. IndyCar 36: Graham Rahal NBC Sports Network
3:30 – 6:30 p.m. Izod IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach NBC Sports Network
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. SPEED Center SPEED
8:00 – 9:00 p.m. Wind Tunnel SPEED
*- Tape Delayed
^- Available via free internet streaming
$- Available via password-protected internet streaming. Check with your local cable and/or internet provider for access
@- Time listed can be different, depending on the CBS affiliate, check your local listings
%- Joined in progress
Note: ESPN is providing two live feeds of the American Le Mans Series race from Long Beach on Saturday night. The WatchESPN.com telecast will feature John Hindhaugh and Jeremy West in the booth, while the ESPN2 telecast will have Brian Till and Johnny O’Connell.
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series telecasts right here in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. The American Le Mans Series race, which is actually being televised live on ESPN2 this weekend, will be covered in the Critic’s Annex on April 19.
Also, I am covering the IndyCar Race Recap for Toni Montgomery on Sunday night. Thoughts on that telecast will be covered in bullet point fashion there.
If you have a gripe with me or just want to say something about my critique,
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About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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