The view from my couch

USAR ProCup - Kroger 250 - New River Valley Speedway
by Lou Lauer, July 25, 2003

The USAR Northern Division made it's way to the beautiful and scenic New River Valley Speedway in Virginia for their 8th race of the year. Jeff Agnew definitley has the fan base covered for this track and was one of the favorites going into the race. But the USAR fields are getting tougher every race and being a favorite means nothing anymore. I didn't get to the race this past weekend but from all accounts, it was one to remember. As I sat down to watch the broadcast tonight I was hoping that the race excitement would come through the screen to the TV viewer. Did it? Well as Johnny Rumley said after the race - "I wasn't going to finish second". A perfect TV moment in the making.

Location - Radford, VA
Race Date - July 19, 2003
Broadcast Date - July 24, 2003
Channel - SPEED, DirecTV #607
Announcers - Booth - Rick Benjamin and Scott Sutherland, Pit Road - "Whispering" Stephen Cox
Production team - Thanks!

The show started with a video montage featuring recent years action at NRV including the Jeff Agnew/Jay Fogleman incident from 2001. Quite appropriate. Then quickly on to the grid already on track and warming up. There must have been a lot of action that needed squeezed into the 2 hours so they got things going quickly. There was very good lead-off story about Derrick Kelly and how he made the field with the help of fellow drivers/owners Don Satterfield and Don Sprouse. Something you would not likely see in any other racing series.

The cameras for this race were a little less than normal I believe, but it did not detract from the showing the exciting race that happened. Turns 1 and 3 as usual, only 1 on top of the main tower (I think), the S/F line 'speedy cam', and a single in-car camera being carried by the #4 of Jay Fogleman provided the video coverage. Is the fact that there was only 1 in-car camera instead of the usual 3 a potential sign of financial struggles that are a problem in racing these days? Teams don't get them for free you know.

We are sent right into green flag action after a very quick starting lineup. Stephen Cox had an interview with pole-sitter, Jeff Agnew, and told us how Agnew missed the drivers meeting and had to start at the rear. Is this becoming a trend in USAR? It did provide the potential for some good TV coverage as Agnew was sure to work his way through the field rapidly. Cox's audio sounded badly during the interview and would continue to do so throughout the broadcast. We also did without the usual track description so the action on the track could get going, but to their credit, the broadcast team did get that part in after the first caution. 98 degrees outside at racetime! What looked to be a packed grandstand of an estimated 10,000 race fans was great to see. They would get their money's worth during this race!

The theme for my review got a kick-start when Scott Sutherland chose to describe the racing at NRV as "touchy-bangy". For some reason I started listening more for "quotes" during the race. Hey, you can only write about this stuff for so long before you go a bit wacky. Try it yourself next race. Make it a new drinking game!

Early in the race, the leaders were already lapping the field. I always think that this kind of performance highlights the 'haves v.s. the have-nots' that seems to be the norm for this series and that it makes the series look bad. But then I thought that it is really no different than any other racing series, even up to the NA$CAR boys. The main difference is the tracks are bigger there so you don't see the rear of the field getting lapped so quickly. I'll stick with this series - thank you very much - or as Jeff Agnew said during a feature piece on him later in the race - "When you've got something good, it's hard to leave it!". Well said.

Speaking of Jeff, on lap 21 - Agnew spins out the #27 of Kyle Shoemaker. Poor Kyle. It just hasn't been his year and he would be involved in spins and action later. Jeff, it's not good to spin someone out just as TV was showing how well you were marching up through field!

TV pointed out how Bobby Gill was in the spotter's stand this week helping out the Johnny Rumley team. There were some good scanner bites from them throughout the race that were used well. This is the kind of information that makes things more interesting to watch. TV also had an interview with Mart Nesbitt, another Southern Division driver helping out this weekend. Mart was working with the #88 team of Adam Dean. This is great background material for the race.

Did anybody else get hungry seeing the numerous Kroger fried chicken commercials throughout the night? Maybe it was just me....

Early in the race, Rumley was trying hard to get past the leader, Danny Sammons, who had another impressive showing. Scott Sutherland gave fans a good description as to why Rumley was having such a hard time because he needed the line off the corner more to complete the pass. Sutherland's explanation was not too 'dumbed down' but provided good information to help viewers understand things better. Through the race there was plenty of racing action to see and cover. I can't possibly describe all of the action we saw, but I think TV did a great job in showing it to us, regardless of if it involved the leaders or the middle or back of the pack.

After a restart on lap 43, the 27 car started to become - well, I'm trying not to be rude, but he was a menace. The 27 was a big problem for the then second and third place cars of Rumley and Fogleman. Shortly thereafter we saw a brief shot of the #27 car on pit road with what appeared to be a USAR official talking to him through the driver's window. The TV team didn't find out the scoop. Was he black-flagged? What was going on? Shoemaker does come back out onto the track - right into the racing line of the pack coming off turn 2. Blend Kyle, blend! Not BlendER!

On a restart at lap 74, the leader, Danny Sammons, spins himself going into turn 1. Rumley was slightly involved and Joel Kaufmann gets his nose doinked. Rumley pits for damage repair. There was good coverage of the repair work from the lens of the mobile camera but once again Cox's audio sounded lousy. Too fake sounding or something. It sounded like they were using a tin can and a string. I really can't describe it properly, but I didn't like it.

Cox had an interview with Sammons' crew chief to find out that the car popped out of gear. Good info. After the restart there was good coverage of racing back in the pack with the 99 (Mike Potter), 88 (Adam Dean), 36 (Eddie Beahr), and Rumley cars putting on a good show. It was around this time that I noticed that the 'speedy cam' seemed out of focus. I wasn't drinking - honest! Scott Baker (11), Jeff Agnew (73), and Hal Goodson (50) were also putting on some great racing at the front and it was well covered. At least until they decided not to use Picture-in-Picture when they went to an interview with yet another Souther, driver helping out this weekend. Clay Rogers was working with the #11 team of Baker. It would have been better to show Clay in PIP and still be able to see the great action that was happening on track with the driver he was helping. Oh - and Clay, no swearing on TV! Your mother may be watching.

Somewhere around lap 110, the #20 of George Brunnhoelzl takes out the #3 of Jason McLellan in turn 2. Before the whole field could get the caution, Pete Wormcastle hits the wall on frontstretch in a separate accident on the same lap. The cameras had the McLellan spin covered as they were following that battle at the time and the 'speedy cam' provided proof of the second incident as we saw the #04 (Jason Patison) nail Wormcastle as they came off turn 4 to take the yellow flag. Rookies :-) With so much happening on the track this night, it is a credit to the camera crew and production team that they only missed a few incidents during the race. With 4 cameras and action everywhere, that's quite commendable. Hell, FOX and NBC have enough cameras to practically cover each car by itself and they still miss a ton of stuff!

Pit stops provided great footage of Scott Baker pitting and the gasman having brainfade and dumping gallon after gallon of fuel on the ground. Hey, when it won't go in - STOP!!! Do you have a death wish? It was so bad that the USAR official had to attempt to make him stop. It would not be a good night for Baker's team in the pits. The car was having a great run on the track however.

After the restart, I noted another reason why I like short tracks. You get to yell "Whooooooaaaaaa!!" a lot! Even the broadcast team couldn't help themselves as the action on the track frequently made them instinctively point and say "whooaa!". Well, we couldn't actually see them pointing, but they probably were.

Deja Vu around midway as the #20 wrecks on the backstretch at the same time as the #97 is wrecking on the front. The previously nonexistent 42 car of Brian Ross sustained heavy damage too. There was good coverage of subsequent pit action from both the mobile camera and the turn 1 camera showing general pit action and crew work. We saw a replay of how the #20 wrecked, but nothing of substance on the 97 car.

And then the cardinal sin for race coverage - they missed the restart. How this happens with tape-delay is still more than my pea brain can comprehend. It's Rick Benjamin's turn to add to the 'quote' quota as he reels off "age and guile" as he talks about the veteran drivers. Dictionary.com describes guile as - Treacherous cunning; skillful deceit. Yep, that's probably correct.

Lap 152 and the 27 spins again! The 40 car of Todd Peck supposedly has damage too, but TV never showed a replay of his involvement or followed up on it. On the restart, front-running Joel Kaufmann has a tire going flat and it's a miracle that he managed to stay out of the way of the field and eventually get to pitroad. Good follow-up and mobile camera coverage of the pit stop and tire inspection. Away to commercial we go with a nice "glamour shot" of the grandstands and track lights from the mobile camera on pit road, then through the magic of tape technology, we come back from commercial to the same shot.

A nice feature on Jeff Agnew followed, but I'll still say that it is taking away from watching 'live' racing. PIP has a purpose. At least put the racing action in the smaller PIP window.

Scott Sutherland's acting career is not forthcoming as he way overreacts when the 8 of Rumley takes the lead from 50 of Goodson. The turn 1 camera catches the 25 of John Gaunt going up in smoke. Not that I have anything against Gaunt, but it did look cool. Gaunt gets out of the way and keeps from oiling down the track which Sutherland quickly points out to viewers.

After the restart on lap 198, you could feel the intensity picking up in the booth and on the track as Agnew begins to hunt down Rumley. The action is interrupted for a spin on lap 202 by Charlie Ford (14) which also involved the 57 of Joe Harrison and 97 of Danny Sammons. It certainly has not been the farewell tour that Charlie was hoping for or deserved this year.

A pit stop by the 11 car of Scott Baker was quite interesting to watch and TV had it all covered. Baker's team was trying to change both rear tires and the guy who normally would be changing the front tire was tasked with changing a rear tire this time. Well, the USAR rules require that you must be wearing a firesuit to change a rear tire. The USAR official, Dean Templeton, did a great job of catching this violation. It forced the normal rear tire changer to do both tires - a time delay which cost Baker a lap and effectively ruined his great run. It was great to hear and see the official explaining the rule to Clay Rogers as RC and his mobile camera and Cox's microphone (I'm guessing) were right there on the spot bringing it all to you without interfering with the team or action. Nice going! 11 team - get it together boys.

After this restart, Goodson and Fogleman get to racing for position and they rub and Goodson wrecks. Looked like Goodson turned into the 4 car to me, but Sutherland does a good job of pointing out what 'might' have happened - that perhaps the 4 car was trying to hold the 50 car outside a little longer than normal going into the turn and the 50 didn't expect it. Not too many laps go by and there's another caution. This one for the #04 of Jason Patison, or as someone in the booth said, "The No-Mess car is quite a mess". No replay of what caused it however.

Back to the track for the run to the checkers. Some great footage of the battles up front from the in-car camera in Fogleman's car. Man, were they all on each other's rear ends. It's a testiment to their skills that they didn't wreck 5 or 6 times! Here comes Agnew again - tap, tap, tap on Rumley's bumper. The director kept switching back to cover the 4th and 5th place battles, but when there is such a great show going on at the front I found this switching to be annoying. What more could you want than what was happening up front?

The finish? One word - WOW! It could have been easy to screw up the TV coverage of the finish but this week the team from Hallbrook Productions and the SPEED Channel had it covered perfectly. Great camera coverage, replays of the "incident" and perfect in-car shots. There already has been and will continue to be plenty of talk and disagreement over the finish of this race, but I'll tell you one thing - at least we saw a real race unlike other series! I think that Agnew or Rumley would have acted similarly had the roles been reversed! I didn't see guilt in either drivers actions. Just race car drivers doing what they are supposed to do - race!

A post-race interview with a surprised but happy Jay Fogleman in victory lane produced perhaps the best quote of the night - "This place breeds excitement"! Yeah buddy. Then we got to see a fair share of Hooter girl rearends before Jeff Agnew, obviously disappointed, said "I thought I had position. I guess position is taking them out before you get alongside them and then you don't have to worry about it." Awww Jeff. What did you expect Rumley to do? Pull over real nice like? A final quotable moment came when they interviewed 2nd place finisher, Eric Corbett. "It was ugly, but hey, there's no style points". And we close out the show with a nice parting shot of the Fogleman family in victory lane. Thanks for not having a stupid dog with ribbons in it's hair, Jay!

The race was great and I thought that the broadcast lived up to it's end of the deal and brought the action to the viewers without losing any of the excitement. Sometimes the USAR race broadcast seem to lose steam as the race gets near the end and the broadcast team peeters out, but not this week. Until next time, I'm going back to my nap - and you can quote me on that! You can send me email at

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