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Broadcast Odds and Ends

These are just are a few observations from the April 11-13 weekend of racing. While I was attending the races at Martinsville, there was an action-packed weekend of racing happening all around the U.S. Luckily, I was able to record most of the action and was able to catch up on what I had missed when we returned home from Martinsville. Included here are comments on the ARCA and Busch Grand National races from Nashville, the ASA race from Houston, as well as an interesting tidbit from the MRN radio broadcast during the truck race at Martinsville and, lastly, an "atta-boy to Dave Despain on his weekly show, Wind Tunnel.

ARCA Race from Nashville on the Speed Channel

This race was anchored by veteran race announcer, Rick Benjamin. He seems to be one of the hardest working and most versatile guys around and can be seen covering all types of stock car racing. Assisting Rick in the booth was former ARCA champion, Bill Venturini, who has worked on other ARCA broadcasts and did a stint on USAR broadcasts a couple of years ago. Pit road was covered by Don Radabaugh, who did a great job covering all the action on his own. Together this team showed a great deal of knowledge about all of the competitors in the ARCA Series. They provided excellent background and features on both the veterans and rookie drivers, explaining the driver's age, where they were from and mentioning their sponsors. I really enjoy this kind of information. The technical crew gave the viewers good replays of most of the on-track incidents. One exception was the accident involving Deborah Renshaw, which occurred while Speed was at commercial. We never heard what happened to her or saw a replay. The announcers did an excellent job of featuring cars sporting patriotic themes, one being Renshaw's which carried the colors of the 101st Airborne which is based at nearby Ft. Campbell Kentucky. The car driven by Jerry Glanville also featured a POW-MIA paint scheme. Radabaugh got a timely interview with Tim Steele after his accident, where Steele made some negative comments about the Hoosier tires. Radabaugh had an excellent follow-up question, asking for clarification on Steele's remarks. Later in the broadcast, Venturini pointed out the lack of grip the tires had on the concrete surface, as opposed to the Goodyear tires being used by the Busch Series that weekend. There was also some good background information on Kyle Busch's team, explaining that former WC champion crew chief, Gary Dehart was helping out the team and that they were borrowing Brian Vickers' BGN pit crew for the night. Venturini also provided some information that I found very interesting when he explained that the crew chief on Sherman's car, WC crew chief, Ben Leslie, and former BGN driver Tracy Leslie, were all brothers. Overall, I thought this was an excellent broadcast.

Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on the Speed Channel

This is the first time I've watched this show. I kept meaning to, but would forget to stay up to watch it or tape it. This week, I just happened to catch the first half hour on the tape of the ARCA race. I remembered Dave Despain from his days with ESPN and knew he was a pretty straight-talking guy. The bit I caught from last week's show was hilarious! Not only was Dave irreverent to NASCAR, but actually stirred up controversy with his phone callers. He really told it like it was about NASCAR's inconsistency over their supposed yellow line rule. He said "I'd read you the rule if it was in the book, but it's not." Then he held up a copy of NASCAR's rulebook and said something about how he'd throw out their rulebook because that's basically what NASCAR does every week. Or something to that effect. Whatever it was, it had me rolling on the floor laughing. Next he read a quote from Kenny Wallace about Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s fan base that also had me laughing. When Dave took questions from phone callers or email, his irreverence really shone. If he didn't like what the caller said, he'd get rid of them. Overall, I thought this was a great show and I look forward to catching it again next week. Keep up the excellent work, Dave!

ASA Race from Houston on the Speed Channel

This was another very good broadcast for the ASA crew of Greg Creamer, Jim Tretow, Ken Stout and Rob Albright. The show started out with a good lead-in about the rookies and a points update. There was also a lot of background provided about the Houston track, which just joined the ASA circuit this season. This included explaining about the track grinding and the application of sealer which appeared to affect the cars a lot during the race. The crew also explained where pit road was located on the track and how the cars pitted on both sides. I found this very interesting. There were a lot of good replays during the race, with just a few of the many incidents missed. There were a couple of technical glitches, one of which occurred when Butch Miller's taped interviewed seemed to be cut off abruptly. The other thing involved promos for other racing shows on Speed. I can't blame the announcers or producers as I'm sure they are required to promote the truck race by the network. The problem was twice the promos were on the screen as the cars were restarting and kind of distracted the viewers from seeing the action on the track. But at least this series doesn't have pointers and little noises to distract the viewers all the time. The only other complaint I had with the broadcast was the announcers seemed to be a little too hyped up during this broadcast. Hopefully, the broadcast team was genuinely excited about the race and is not just falling into the overhype that characterizes the NASCAR broadcasts on Fox and the Speed Channel. Lastly, I really appreciated that the "ticker" across the top of the screen showed the current lap in the race until less than 50 laps to go. This is a refreshing change from how the ticker operates during the NASCAR broadcasts. Overall, this was a very good broadcast and I'm still very impressed with the ASA production crew and on-screen personnel.

BGN Race from Nashville on FX

Now I did get to see this race live Saturday afternoon when we returned back to the campground after the truck race at Martinsville. Okay, make that sort of "saw it" as we had the TV outside and there was a lot of glare on the TV. In addition, I pretty much listened to the MRN broadcast on the radio since it's also hard to hear the TV with all the goings on in a racetrack campground. But I did watch the tape of last 20 or laps when I got home and felt that the so-called "alternate" crew at Nashville did a very good job on this broadcast. Mark Garrow, of PRN was joined in the booth by WC driver, Brett Bodine. I'm not sure if there was more than one pit reporter, as the only one I saw was Bill Venturini, but he did an excellent job covering pit road. The only thing I really want to mention about this broadcast is that it was refreshing to actually have a few moments when the announcers were not talking during the broadcast. I applaud Garrow for not falling into the habit of constantly talking that we see so much on the other NASCAR broadcasts. It's a shame there aren't more standalone events on the Busch Series.

MRN Broadcast of the Truck Race from Martinsville

I just had to share one comment I heard on my scanner during the truck race. Since the fans are getting a direct radio feed on the scanner, a side benefit is you get to hear a lot of candid remarks made by the radio announcers. During this race, it was pretty clear what the MRN guys think about the hype and self-promotion of the Fox commentators. During one commercial, an unknown announcer said, "The people at Tide must really be happy with their sponsorship of DW's truck since that's the only thing they are showing on TV." Now I don't know how true this was as I didn't bother to tape the truck race. And if it is true, I'm really glad I didn't tape the truck race. I see and hear way too much of Darrell during the Busch and WC broadcasts. When will Fox realize that people actually tune into the truck and Busch broadcasts to see those series regular drivers, not the WC invaders or, in this case, a TV "personality?"

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