Sunday, April 29, 2012
The Two Car Tango ESPN Style
Instead, the final laps became the pursuit of Kurt Busch, driving his brother Kyle's team entry, by Denny Hamlin. The final lap was great and the pair managed a side-by-side finish that featured a little rubbing but no wrecking. It was a super victory for the Busch brothers.
On this night, there were also other stories. Travis Pastrana joined the series after his most recent X-Games injury. Danica Patrick and Johanna Long both made the race. Steven Wallace returned to action after the closing of his father's racing operation. Dave Blaney's 18 year-old son Ryan was racing in a one-off effort. Update: The Blaney ride is actually a 6 race Nationwide Series deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing. Thanks to reader Melissa for the update.
Ultimately, Pastrana fell victim to a late pit road speeding penalty. Patrick never got the car's handling right and Long again had inferior equipment. Only Long cracked the top 20 when it was all said and done.
The story of the race turned out to be Blaney. He never put a wheel wrong all night and finished a strong 7th. Steven Wallace also kept his nose clean and scored a solid 11th place. Even Sam Hornish Jr. conquered his personal short track challenges and got a top 5 finish.
The ESPN coverage from the start consisted of tight-shots of small groups of cars, even on the restarts. Two or three cars on the TV screen were common as the race went along. Mixing those shots with in-car cams and low angles comprised the vast majority of the coverage.
Allen Bestwick worked hard to get the excitement going, but it was tough as the director continued to show two or three cars racing in very tight camera shots. There was rarely an aerial shot and except for the green flags on a restart there were no wide shots of the field or large groups of cars racing.
What ESPN did do was track their X-Games superstar Pastrana all night long. Just like the treatment Danica got last season in her appearances, Pastrana was featured instead of other drivers whose storied needed to be updated. Once again, the cult of celebrity was more appealing to ESPN than the NASCAR racing.
Once Hamlin caught up to Busch in the final lap, the cameras stayed with that battle until the two crossed the finish line. But then, a funny thing happened. Instead of staying on the start/finish line or moving back to catch the next lead lap cars the director chose to show Busch slowing down and then his pit crew celebrating. None of the other lead lap cars were shown racing to the line.
This race only featured a battle for the lead on the final two laps. It only featured two cars side by side for the final lap. This actually got the ESPN crew so excited that the entire rest of the field was never seen after the leaders finished.
My contention has long been that TV is at the track to show the viewers at home what the fans in the stands are watching. The best battles, the big wreck, the fastest speeds are all part of the NASCAR experience. This all comes back to a statement made many times over the past few seasons.
There was not one fan in the stands at Richmond who only watched the winners finish the race. As the rest of the field raced toward the finish, the attention of the fans went back to the cars at speed and the stories still unfolding. ESPN stepped in and made a decision for the fans watching at home that they would see something else.
There was some drama in Kyle Busch's team winning the race. He would be interviewed along with his driver in Victory Lane. But this was not the Indy500, the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl. It was a Nationwide Series race in Richmond. Once Kurt won, the TV viewers deserved to see the other cars race to the finish line.
What is your opinion on this topic? To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.