The view from my couch

USAR ProCup - Jackaroo Sauces 250 Presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts & Alltel
by CouchPotato


There's not much time alloted for fancy pre-race activities, interviews, or video clips before any Hooters Cup race. This race saw a few good items though. Bobby Gill was back on track this weekend, still mending from his injuries suffered at this very track during the Snowball Derby recently. As a racefan who knows that Gill and his team are plenty capable of dominating any race, I had to say "no!" when he asked "Did ya miss me?" as the show intro this week. An interesting interview with Scott Sutherland - past USAR announcer, driver, and crew chief who was making a 'comeback' as a driver this week. I'll count him as the third booth announcer this week. Doug Rice had a good interview with Joe Gaita about his problems experienced during qualifying which damaged his car. Rice also had some good information about the extra tires that each team would get for this weekend because of Pensacola's tire-eating surface. A pretty lame "gentlemen start your engines" and a starting grid which showed a short field rounded out the pre-race portion.

Location - Five Flags Speedway, Pensacola, Florida
Race Date - March 15, 2003
Broadcast Date - March 20, 2003
Channel - SPEED
Announcers - Gene Crane - Booth, Brian Drebber - Booth, Scott Sutherland - Booth (?), Doug Rice - Pit Road

The Race

I know it's a pretty minor thing, but everyone has their pet peeves and this is one of mine. Why do they have to show the honorary green flag waver instead of the cars when the race is started? Use the technology of picture-in-picture to show fans the start of the race! Fortunately, there was a caution before the first lap was completed and we got to see a complete double-file restart again - good decision USAR! Now if you could have just gotten the track consession stand to stop generating a smoke screen which obstructed the view of the racing coming out of turn 4...

This race was filled with cautions flags. The flagman's arm must be worn out. Perhaps USAR should look into a 3 spins and you're parked rule. Calvin Redwine had a tough night and might have benefitted from this rule for this race. As is probably going to become the usual practice for the USAR races, the majority of cautions were never followed up with a replay of the incident. It's not that I'm a wreck-monger, but with shorttrack racing, cautions, spins, and wrecks all add up to create the tempo of the race, the revenge factors involved, the story of the race, and sometimes the outcome of the race. Missing the details somehow leaves me feeling like I'm viewing the Cliff Notes version broadcast.

Early on in the race, there was pretty good coverage of the whole field. Watching Gaita come up thru the pack from his rear starting spot was interesting. Watching Shane Wallace fall back after a strong start was important. Less and less attention was paid to the rear of the field as the race went on. If your favorite driver wasn't in the top 10 - forget about it. Oh yeah - what was with the sound quality? The announcers sounded link they were using tin cans and string.

As I mentioned earlier, this race had Scott Sutherland in car #27. A funny pre-taped spot somewhere around lap 42 showed Sutherland with 2 Hooter girls. "You just don't get these perks up north!" is what Scott had to say abut the situation! I can see the creation of an add-on show for the race - Hooters North Girls v.s. Hooters South Girls! Around the same time, there was a pretty good interview with Bobby Gill where he talked about the season and how his recent injuries are affecting him. Not too bad for Mr. Personality. Unfortunately for Gill, his car broke moments later after passing for the lead - a pass which was barely shown on TV. Instead, we had to break away to show some Hooters Girls in the stands. Priorities?

Sutherland provided the broadcast team with the ability to have some in-car interviews during caution flags. I thought this was a great addition to the show and they almost got away with it! Then I remembered that the broadcast team fills in the audio days AFTER the race so they could not have been talking to Scott live as he drove around under caution. Either Doug Rice actually asked the questions live and then Drebber dubbed his voice over them or Scott was the mysterious 3rd member in the booth and the entire conversation was fake. Makes me wonder about some other aspects of the broadcast. Guys, it also helps to have the drivers audio synced up with when he actually has his hands on the steering wheel. Unless he's using some new system for talking with the crew, he would need to be able to push his talk button before we could hear him! Keep it up with the in-car though, it's still interesting even if it might not be authentic.

Back to the race - Gene Crane had a good technical explanation of Gill's problem - an input shaft failure. We can handle the tech stuff, keep it coming. Finally on lap 52 (or maybe it wasn't really) we got our first full field rundown. I did note that showing viewers what lap # the race was on seemed to be used more frequently this race. That's a good thing. Somewhere around lap 70, the race was interrupted to show a pre-recorded interview with Jason Sarvis. Jason is the defending champion and deserves some air time, but this interview was way too long. Picture-in-picture would be a perfect technique to use for this in the future. We tuned in to watch racing.

The racing heated up a bit before lap 100. A good battle with the 92 of Mart Nesbitt and the 84 of Shane Huffman was followed well. Shortly after that, Nesbitt is nowhere to be found at the front of the pack and no explanation was given for his disappearance. And all of a sudden, the #4 car of Shane Wallace is blazing through the field. Last we saw or were told, he was dropping like a rock. Lots of information was missing from this race. I guess that's a product of the cutting room floor and some folks not being there live. Eventually, the reliable Doug Rice did give us a pit report that the 4 car had new tires.

The main pit stops of the day came around lap 114. As usual, I love the closeness of the pitroad camera work. RC was in the right spot to catch all the action when Nesbitt, Huffman, and Wallace all pitted. Drebber goofed up describing the problems that Nesbitt had with his left rear tire - he attributed the problems to Wallace's team. Plus, if Wallace was the leader at the time, why did he come into the pits a lap after the other cars? No follow-up on that was given. Unfortunately, those were the only cars shown during that round of pit stops.

Plenty of racing action once again. The 84 and 7 battled for the halfway bonus, great action in the midpack was also shown with the cars of Lindley, Wieczoreck, Porter, and Stover having at it. Good camera work following these exciting laps. But suddenly it's lap 150! I know I tend to nap a bit, but not this time. Where did that chunk of laps go? We pick it up again with restart on lap 159. This restart was shown from inside the #28 car of Michael Ritch. Looked great. A good use of the in-car camera.

Most of the night I kept thinking that the turn 3 camera was a little out of focus. Was it just me? The pit stops that followed a 6 car wreck on lap 191 made good use of the wider shot capabilities of the camera on top of the tower to capture the action. I love the mobile pit camera, but sometimes "wide is better". Also, during this pit stop I had a moment of DejaVu. In the background I could hear Gene Crane doing his live announcer work from the stands and at the same time he was talking from the booth! Gene, they've finally found a way to clone you!

The rest of the race we were treated to some more Scott Sutherland in-cars. Don't overdo a good thing or you'll soon have a line of drivers with their prepared in-car "live" interviews wanting equal time. Up until lap 245, I thought the broadcast was pretty good and the race was great. That feeling changed. It's only the most important part of the race and they miss the lap 245 restart and the camera shots chosen seemed mostly irrelevant to the race finish that was about to happen. On my notes I wrote 'sad' as a description of the ending that the broadcast team gave us. Redeeming themselves a little bit, we were treated to some decent interviews with the winner, Shane Huffman, second place Stacy Puryear, and third place Mike Laughlin Jr.

Until next time, I'm going back to my nap. You can send me email at

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