Sunday, May 25, 2008

NASCAR Fans Fill The Stands In Indy


It was a fascinating day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Change was in the air and reflected in the racing, the fans and the ABC Network telecast.

Let's face facts. Previous Indy 500 telecasts suffered from bad announcers to over-the-top hype to screaming rock music played live on the grandstand roof. It only took the ESPN production team assembled for this Indy 500 a couple of hours to put all those memories to rest.

Marty Reid led a combination of booth announcers that offered the most insightful and honest commentary of this race in many years. Even Brent Musburger, brought in as the ABC "show host," proved to be in good form and well-rehearsed. Musburger blended well with Reid as they transitioned between the pre-race programming and the actual event.

The hit of the telecast proved to be the unique pairing of Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever. Referred to by Cheever as "my little nerdy Canadian friend" during the telecast, Goodyear was the provider of information and Cheever was the provider of explanations. Simply put, Goodyear talked about "how" and Cheever talked about "why."

Marty Reid was outstanding at working the pit reporters for everything they could muster during the telecast. ESPN's Jamie Little has finally found her on-air style, and never missed a beat. Newcomer Brienne Pedigo asked straightforward questions and even tracked down Danica Patrick after the race amid a huge media horde. Jack Arute is the Jerry Punch of the Indy 500, meaning he is the "dean" of the pit reporters. Vince Welch is still a little too blunt for me personally, but he knows his racing and asks the questions that need to be asked.

The pit reporters found themselves in situations ranging from car fires to angry drivers. They tip-toed into embarrassed car owners for comments and commiserated with frustrated drivers who fell out of the race. It was a strong performance all around on pit road.

Despite the single line racing, it was still the Indy 500. Reid kept a tight reign on the stories in-progress and repeatedly updated the high-profile issues. Number one on that list, to no one's surprise, was Ms. Patrick. Despite the other two females in the field, ABC could not ignore that fact that many fans were in the stands or watching on TV because of this single driver.

Her constant complaining over the team radio and untimely end to her day made for good TV. Her final angry tantrum served once again to cause fans to either love her for her passion or hate her for her arrogance. ABC covered her from start to finish, and then returned to the race.

The two hiccups in the telecast consisted of a poorly timed commercial with less than twenty laps to go as the field screamed around the oval running some of the fastest laps of the day. Then, upon returning to the race, Reid led a crescendo of excitement that ended with...the entire Dixon family. As Mr. Dixon crossed the finish line to win, Ms. Dixon and the rest of the Dixon clan from New Zealand filled the TV screens across America.

What there was included lots of hugging and crying and joy. What there was not included any other cars finishing the race.

The choice of showing the field finishing after a long and hard race vs. the emotion of a family on pit road should not have been difficult. One minute later, the family was still happy and crying. Unfortunately, one minute later the 15 cars on the lead lap had already crossed the finish line. This was an injustice to the teams, drivers and fans.

The valiant effort of Vitor Meira went unfinished. The controversy and strong drive of Marco Andretti's day was not paid-off. The frustration of Helio Castroneves and the amazing comeback of Ed Carpenter were never seen. Race fans knew where these drivers finished as they were interviewed after the event.

The IRL's side-by-side commercials continue to embarrass NASCAR and the "old guard" when seen by NASCAR fans. The TV networks continue to say it is NASCAR that is prohibiting this practice from occurring in the sport. Watching one IRL race like the Indy 500 only reinforces just how ridiculous NASCAR's view really is on this issue. If anything, having the race continuing on the screen keeps TV viewers in their seats rather than encouraging the two minute dash to the kitchen.

ABC went a long way toward returning Indy to its glory days with a good telecast that told a sweeping story involving drivers from all over the world. The drama of the race once again had been built-up and allowed to play-out. As the cameras panned the stands and the NASCAR t-shirts were on display, it was apparent that Americans had their attention turned once again to a series that is rapidly gaining ground with the public.

Hopefully, the NASCAR executives were also watching the overflowing stands and the enthusiastic crowds. After the success of the 2008 Indy 500, there is no doubt that voices will rise calling for changes to the COT before more fans decide to go dancing with the stars.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to read this special column.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. I'd much rather see the end of the race (live) and watch Vitor race Marco for second than see the celebrating Dixon family. We could see that on tape delay a bit later and not miss a thing. (Congrats, Scott Dixon!)

IRL could take lessons from NASCASR on control of Victory Lane. I've long noticed that IRL winners pay little attention to the TV guys, who have to beg for attention, and the drivers almost grudgingly go over for their interview. In NASCAR, the TV guys tell the driver when to get out of the car, and TV is the focus in Victory Lane. As it should be, since millions are watching it on TV and only a handful of folks are in the lane.

Anonymous said...

I thought the coverage of Indy was good, not great. Although, it probably seemed great since it was quite different from the NASCAR broadcasts we've come to know and love (or hate). A few times I felt myself enjoying the coverage, but then thought "what would it be like if they covered a NASCAR race like this?" Thanks, but no thanks.

I expect ratings for the Indy 500 will be way, way up. Danica, re-unification, and even Dancing with the Stars will all draw many curious eyeballs. Unfortunately, no matter how good the broadcast, I suspect most of those eyeballs were bored. This was a horrible race: single file - nearly half the first 90 laps in caution - devoid of much drama or excitement. It was, in my opinion, a worse race than any COT races we've seen this year.

Meanwhile, NASCAR put on a really fun show. Say what you will about Digger, the DWStore plugs, the Kyle Busch rah-rah-ing, etc... but I'd rather watch a mediocre broadcast of a great race than a great broadcast of a mediocre race. As the IRL vs. NASCAR ratings war plays out, I think this will be a major factor in determining who wins.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the close up of the flag man at the end of the race somewhat of a tradition at Indy. I've only been watching for the past 10 or so years, but every finish has been covered this way at this race.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:27PM,

There was plenty of time to cut back to the racers, as Dixon had a two second lead at the finish.

TV directors make choices all the time, and if ABC wanted to emphasize the winner that is their choice. It would have helped if they replayed the finishes of the drivers they interviewed after the race.

Your opinion is just as valid as mine. Did you miss seeing the other cars finish?

JD

Anonymous said...

JD, I don't think you are right at all in placing ALL the blame on NASCAR with regards to the "side-by-side" issue. If I recall correctly it is the SPOSORS of NASCAR that refuse to pay for a commercial if it is shown "side-by-side". They believe people will watch the small box with racing instead of the commercial. You have to remember the Sponsor money in NASCAR is a lot bigger and higher profile than in the IRL.

Daly Planet Editor said...

That is the question. The TV networks say they are ready to go and the advertisers have no problems. NASCAR says the advertisers will not allow it.

Kind of sounds like Humpy and Brution talking!

KoHoSo said...

There is one other large criticism I would add about this year's telecast of the "500." They did a horrible job of covering the full field. There were many surprises in who finished on the lead lap, and the ABC crew mentioned only one or two of these throughout the entire telecast. While maybe that's the "NASCAR norm" these days, it is not IMO the tradition of "500" telecasts where a decent run by a small team was given it's brief, but still appropriate due.

I could not agree more that adding Cheever to the booth was a great move and that, overall (minus especially the end) the telecast flowed very well. However, I have been watching the "500" on TV since 1970 and can remember it strongly since '73. While certainly an improvement over the crew with cRusty Wallace -- and admittedly aggravated by the unusual circumstance of modern IndyCars being unable to pass -- this was nothing for which ABC/ESPN should be patting itself on the back. The entire broadcast team should go back to the unedited tapes from 1986 through 1994 to see how to fully and properly cover such an historic event where stories besides who won do matter.

JMHO

Anonymous said...

You're very right, Mr. Daly. If only NASCAR advertisers were smart enough to ask for the same, or at the very least, a crawl that stays up during all the breaks.

I wonder what the quarter hour ratings were for the Indy 500 race cast for 4:15 and 4:45. I'll bet the ratings dropped off a cliff after Danica was out of the race. I took the opportunity to make a big snack and rest up for the Coke 600.

As for seeing all the drivers at the end crossing the finish line? Unless Danica was in at the end, I would only want to see the emotion of the winner and the winner's crew and family. I don't follow open-wheel, IRL, Champ Car..

(Hey, maybe someone ought to tell me what they want to call themselves.) And that's my point. I would bet that most people outside the Southeast were Indy 500 fans before they followed NASCAR. The confusion over the battle of multi-millionaire egos squandered this lead and they will probably never get it back unless Danica starts winning.

And one last note: if anyone with leadership in this circuit has a brain, he will tell all the other drivers to give Danica a wide berth. Not because they should fix it so she can win. But every minute she's in the race, the audience will stay tuned, which means more exposure for everyone's advertisers.

haus20 said...

I for one did not watch the 500 to see Danica win or lose. (Although, here emotional whining on the radio about her ill-handling car was entertaining.) I understand there are those that do watch for Danica, but I think that the actual numbers are over estimated.

I actually enjoyed watching the racing and appreciated Marty Reid attempt to convey the building drama and excitement that was mounting as the laps wound down. However, I too was disappointed when we saw the flagman waving the checkers instead of seeing the battle for 2nd - if there was one. I guess we will never know.

Kenn Fong said...

I was a big Indy 500 fan. I can remember drawing the cars on index cards and coloring them with markers so I could lay them out on my big kitchen table and track the race in the early 70s using the radio broadcast when ABC delayed it until prime time. Since they did a slice and dice, it bothered me one year when Mario Andretti -- my favorite driver after Jackie Stewart retired and went into the booth -- qualified poorly and started in the 13th or 14th row. He battled hard and survived attrition to make it up to about 9th before ABC realized it and showed him and talked about how well he'd driven. It occurred to me that because it was a delayed telecast, they already knew how well he'd done, so they could have mentioned him before that.

I remember the radio racecast, with the field counted down every ten laps and reports on every car every 20 or 25 and how I raced to reposition the car(d)s. And how they followed one car all the way around the track, passing off from one reporter to another. I always admired those reporters and wanted to be one.

What voices there were, on radio and television... Paul Page, Jackie Stewart with his high voice and clipped syllables, Jack Arute, still considered a gem after more than 3 decades in an industry which prizes young, unlined faces over older ones which fit over brains filled with experience and lore.

Now I'm heavily involved with NASCAR. Because of the insular way Indy protects its drivers, I don't get to know any of them in the same way I know a lot of the drivers who missed last year's Chase. I only know Danica very well from Lars Anderson's excellent profiles in S.I. (As well as her own lovely profile in the Swimsuit Edition.)

Thanks for indulging me.

Kenny
Alameda, California

Rockin Rich said...

I watched both races. The thing that has struck me so often when watching IRL races is that I can't identify the cars/drivers as I am watching them on the track. The car bodies are simply too small for me to be able to distinguish who is who. The "taxicabs" on the other hand are easy to identify who is who as they race around the track, or get into trouble. I can clearly see the huge car numbers, and corporate logos on the cars on the TV screen , and thus immediately pick out whatever driver(s) I want to focus on.

For me, that is the biggest reason I get so much more out of watching the "taxicabs". No matter what is happening on the track, I can immediately tell who is involved.

On another note, I really enjoyed reading Kenn Fong's description of how he followed the IRL races when he was younger. Laying out index cards for each car on the track, and repositioning them as the race went on is really being thoroughly involved in the race! I wonder how that enthusiasm has translated over to watching NASCAR racing now that he has become more involved with this venue.

Vicky D said...

JD, I thought the 600 telecast failed to mention a lot of the field. It's possible that I could have missed Kvapil, Riggs, Mears, as an example but I believe DW brought up Digger many more times than the those other drivers.

Ritchie said...

The broadcast would have been much better if it wasn't half about the race and half about Danica. The media needs to figure out a way to objectively cover Danica Patrick. As they cover it now, she is apparently this goddess sent down from the heavens that can drive a car better than anyone and never makes a mistake.

It is ridiculous. The media doesn't even cover Dale Jr. like that (close, but not like Danica).

I know she has legions of fans, and I know this is just a sport, but there needs to be some objectivity. Somebody needs to interview Michel Rahal for some fair and balanced reporting.

Anonymous said...

J.D.

Goodyear is the Canadian, Cheever is Italian.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:06PM,

Cheever is from Phoenix, Arizona.

As for my commnents..."Referred to by Cheever as 'my little nerdy Canadian friend' during the telecast, Goodyear was the provider of information and Cheever was the provider of explanations."

Goodyear is from Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

ttc said...

My main gripe about the Indy 500 telecast were the inordinate amount of promos that Marty Reid did for upcoming ABC and ESPN shows. He must have done at least 10 for the season finale of "Lost."

By contrast, except for the upcoming race at Dover, I think Mike Joy maybe did one promo, for the Fox MLB games next Saturday.

BTW, Eddie Cheever did commentary on a few F1 races for ESPN in the mid or late 90s so he is not a babes in the woods announcer.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed both races, although everyone I was rooting for in Indy race had problems! Having attended all but 2 races since 1997, there has always been lots of fans in NASCAR garb, ourselves included. Even at the F1 races at Indy (attended all since 2000), there were many fans sporting NASCAR caps/shirts, etc. We could not stand Cheever as a driver, however we liked his commentary. Voice is easy to listen to and liked his straight up comments and insight.
Bottomm line is the broadcasters can't be responsible for the quality and/or lack of racing. What they can do is provide the best pictures, follow many stories/drivers, not just the chosen few and add some color when things aren't too exciting. Overall I think broadcasts are improving...seem to be listening to suggestions from the fans. Now if all of them can just get the finish right, it would be great. PS...loved the shot from the camera strung over the frontstretch at Indy. In HD that was an fantastic view/sensation of the cars in the pits and going into turn 1. Thanks to whoever invented that view!!!

Diane

Dannyboy said...

JD - re: "my nerdy little Canadian friend"

As I heard it, Scott Goodyear made the comment about a friend who has many obscure stats at his fingertips. Eddie amusedly asked, "Your nerdy Canadian friend?" or something to that effect.

As much fun as it might have been to have it the way you reported it, and as believeable as that may have been at one time, I will repeat myself from a post on the race thread yesterday and say that I thought EC was on his best behavior.

As for Danica's tantrum, good thing there was a yellow flag, or the blimp may have run out of fuel while focusing on her and the media's antics and missed some more actual racing.

I love her passion, even if she sometimes conveniently forgets she's a female and does things that would get a male in the same circumstances decked .

Anonymous said...

Once again,Indy failed to live up to the hype. Terrible,boring, single-file racing, lots of rookies and a whining,overpaid female brat as well as many,lengthy cautions.50 years ago,it was tradition for me and my dad to polish his car in the garage while we listened to the race on the radio at our home in Nazareth,Pa.Those were the good-old-days when USAC Indy Car racing was the unquestioned best racing in America!

Vince in West Mich. said...

I enjoyed the guys in the booth for Indy. Marty's good, and Goodyear and Cheever were great together. I think ABC has found a good pairing in those two. And wasn't it nice to have somebody in the booth that wasn't always trying to sell us those damn Digger t-shirts?!

I didn't think the race was that good until the last 20 laps or so. And I couldn't believe ABC went to commercial with 17 laps to go when some of the best racing of the day was going on. What were they thinking? They totally blew the end of the race. I was pulling for Meira and his underfunded team to beat the big boys. But all I got to see was the flagman, and Dixon's wife and crew. Big disappointment. I don't see why it is so hard for the networks to just show us the finish of the race. Or was ABC just following FOX's example?

I don't have a problem with Danica. She's passionate about what she does and wants to win. What's wrong with that? She can't be blamed for all the coverage she gets any more than Dale Jr. or Kyle B. can. Somebody is always gonna be the most popular with the fans and media. So get over it already.

Anonymous said...

YAWWWWWN. Champcar still had the better cars drivers and racers. Most of the drivers in this years indy, including Ms Patrick deserve to be Bandalero racing or at best spending dollars to get laps at their local Kart track.

Anonymous said...

By the way Mr. Daly Eddie Cheever IS Italian and only a johny cum lately American.He was born and raised in Italy and only came to the USA when his F1 career crapped out

Daly Planet Editor said...

danny,

I used a recording of the race for that quote, but I will be happy to check it for you.

Anon 3:21PM,

Eddie Cheever was born in Phoenix, Arizona. His family moved to Italy shortly thereafter.

Adam T. Martin said...

The coverage was alright, but needed Paul Page in the booth to really bring justice and excitement to the telecast.

Ritchie said...

This is addressed to Mr. "Vince in West Mich". This statement is completely independent of Mr. Daly, so if he wants to remove it, I'm ok with that.

Sir, you seem like an intelligent gentlemen, and I respect your opinion and your right to express your opinion. However, one of the things I enjoy about this blog and the comments that it generates is the respect the people posting have for one another. That is rare on the net. Very few blogs stay focused on the subject matter like this one does.

The reason I state this is that it would be very nice if you would refrain from typing things such as "Just get over it". Everyone has a right to their opinion and no one has to "get over" anything.

The reason we come to this site is because it makes a difference. If it deteriorates into people trying to shout each other down, I'm afraid it will lessen the influence it has. Thanks.

Karen said...

Daly Planet Editor said...

danny,

I used a recording of the race for that quote, but I will be happy to check it for you.


JD, I think Danny may be right about Scott saying his "nerdy Canadian friend" re: stats.

Vince in West Mich. said...

Richie,

My comments were not directed at any one individual. This blog is about the media coverage of our sport. Not complaining about one driver or another getting more coverage than the others. It's generally not the drivers fault that they are popular with the fans or that they are the media's "flavor of the month". Some posters on here are upset about driver A or B getting more coverage than the other drivers. Maybe "get over it" was a poor choice of words and I apologize for that, but the fact exists that there is always going to be a media/fan "darling" and we just have to grin and bear it if they don't happen to be one of our favorite drivers. I'm not happy about it either, but unfortunately it's easier for the media to jump on the most popular or current hot driver's band wagon than for them to do some actual reporting about the lesser known drivers.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a bias against Danica, but the media gives her too much attention. As mentioned in previous comments, there are lots of other drivers deserving coverage.

How about Davey Hamilton; I never heard his name once - supermodified driver who worked his way up to Indy, 2001 crash at Texas and almost lost both legs, rehabilitation to learn to walk again, ran strong all day and finished 14th.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever notice that the 2 over-hyped media favs Dale "Juner"(as in Redneck speak)- "Junebug" as per DW and Danica have one main character flaw in common that any logical viewer see. They both complain,cry,and continually whine about there cars! If Danica has to have a "perfect car" every race, barring a freak fuel mileage win like Japan -she will never win again. The only reason Jr won most of his superspeedway races was the notorious Nascar "Big Plate". Great Drivers and Winners find a way to win,and different groove,or better strategy,or whatever it takes to refuse to lose--this attitude will make you a real winner Danica &Jr---not complaining and whining "My car is not fast! I can't pass anyone!" The ten or so drivers running ahead of you had the same problems and equal equipment,and ran up front without the spoiled brat/loser whining mentality! Why does the media favor such a loser attitude shared by these two spoiled brat drivers,when there are so many REAL Drivers who win like true Champions and are great role models for everyone?? America needs REAL HEROES,and these two who can never see that the problem is looking at them in their mirrows are certainly not the BEST out there! Media get REAL!

SophiaZ123 said...

Vince

I am fan of certain drivers but the media bias is nauseating, isn't it? I know it's not the drivers fault but geez.

thanks to anon here I had NO IDEA about the Davey Hamilton story and considering some guys in the Indy booth were former drivers or one was, most disappointing I did not hear that story.

Then again if it was on the pre race I missed it. I refused to watch much pre race on sunday for all the racss!! Not enough hours in the day to brush your teeth.

Just because we live in a day of "it's all about the marketing" I gotta say I am glad danica won her first race a couple weeks ago but have been very disappointed in her marketing choices.

I hope we never see Jr in a skimpy swimsuit to get attention! Yikes!

:-)

I think the focus on the young guns in NASCAR is annoying, too but not as over done as it was a couple years ago.

Still, I like to hear stories of the underdog.

I only knew about Sarah Fishers woes from reading some articles earlier in the month that I sought out.

Most people like a come from behind story or fighting back to regain one's health or recover from injury. I would have rather heard Davey's story than the interview about death and dying on the Pre race. YES those stories have their place but not on Memorial Day weekend...imo.

About Dale Jr...he has had some bad luck this year but is doing consistently better than last year and a couple others at HMS are struggling.

And that's what this blog is about...opines.

Anonymous said...

Danica....one win and counting....every week it will be WHEN will Danica get her second win...let's just vote her into the hall on her initial win and let her retire or wander up and down pit road along with someone (presumably a bodyguard) looking for someone to "beat up" (??) for wrecking the Danica ride.

Indy 500 was a great "prelim / heat race" for the 600.