The view from my couch

USAR ProCup - Naturally Fresh Foods 250
by Lou Lauer

Legendary Winchester! As a fan, I'd always heard how exciting the racing was at this track. I'd watched ARCA, USAR, ASA, sprint cars, and others through the magic of television. But it just wasn't the same. Any racefan worth his seat cushion needed to get to Winchester at least once in their life and we made this USAR race part of our schedule this season. As I said to people who asked me if our 1200 mile round trip was worth it - Hell yeah! Could the TV broadcast bring the same excitement you feel live at the track?

Location - Winchester, IN
Race Date - May 7, 2003
Broadcast Date - May 12, 2003
Channel - SPEED, DirecTV #607
Announcers - Rick Benjamin - Booth, Scott Sutherland - Booth, Stephen Cox - Pit Road

USAR continued it's new "tradition" this year with a nice video/audio montage to lead in to the show. Just enough jazzing it up, but not too much. I like how they are getting the drivers involved. The show also began with a discussion about the tire problems that had cropped up this race weekend. It was a story that they followed up with several times throughout the show. Based on the little tidbit during the intro, I was afraid they were not giving it the importance it deserved, but the broadcast team proved me wrong later in the show. The track had also undergone some physical changes since the series last visited and Stephen Cox gave a good description of these changes and how they might affect racing. A track diagram and description rounded out the pre-race data.

On board cameras this week were carried by the #44 of Joel Kauffman, the #4 of Jay Fogelman, and the #92 of Jimmy Burns. A very nice addition to the pre-race was the view of a lap around Winchester through the camera lens of the #44 car. A much better way for the fan to get a feel of the track that a commentator simply describing it. During the starting grid section, Cox talked to Hal Goodson about being the first Dodge to get a pole and his new paint color. It is also still nice that this series takes a little bit of extra time to talk about the whole field of drivers rather than just quickly scrolling their names and starting position past you. They mentioned that Jeff Agnew needed to go to rear of field. A mention of "fixed the problem", but they never really said what the problem was. Did he change an engine? Why exactly did he go to the back?

The typical USAR camera setup was present. 2 cameras on main tower, one in turn 1 (located outside the track), one in turn 3 (located inside the track), and the "Speedy" cam, located along the front stretch wall. Rounding things out was Richard Campbell manning the mobile pitroad reporting camera. Richard and Stephen got a workout this race. At the track, I saw them running up and down pitroad in search of stories many times. Also, they seemed to have a third person with them this race that I had not seen before. Some sort of "gopher" or spotter?

Once again, we had the view of the guest flag waver instead of coverage of the field. The massive wreck in turn 1, lap 1 certainly had to be a surprise to the broadcast team. I know that sitting in the turn 1 area, I was surprised by the number of cars involved and how quickly it all unfolded. My initial reaction of the TV coverage from the couch was that the camera shots of the wreck, the aftermath, and the cars/drivers involved was not very good. They never did seem to have a very good shot of how it all unfolded. The #4 car was involved and had a heavy hit, yet we didn't see very good coverage of Jay Fogelman getting out safely, nor did we see any in-car camera shots from his car. Eventually we saw some footage from the #92 in-car, but none from the #44 car. At least a camera pan shot of all the cars involved as they sat in turn 1 and of the drivers getting out would be nice.

The ensuing red flag allowed for many pitroad interviews. Ronnie Perrine, Forrest Urban (Sr), and Jay Fogelman. You could really could tell the disappointment for a small team when Dale Evonsion's team was interviewed. An interview with Hal Goodson while he was still in the car had some pretty bad audio. We got something new this race - a shot of the USAR officials in tower! Hi guys. Finally we get to the restart. Now that's how the camera coverage should be! A great shot from the turn 1 camera straight on the field as they came to take the flag and dive into turn 1. Mike Laughlin, Jr. was the early leader and there were lots of shots of the 7 car running by himself. They should show the pack when the leader is running away. Some good in-car shots from the 44 car in early lap battles were a bit washed out, but it showed good action. Of course, the washed-out look could have been from the 3 tons of speedy dry that was put on the track! A picture-in-picture interview with Joel Kauffman was very good. Again, a reference to "Agnew made a change to the car" - what change? Engine?

Lots of footage of the sponsor banners along the backstretch. Bruce - they looked good - now if you can get the safety guys to not stand in front of them :-) Some excellent in-car shots with the 44 car of a near wreck off turn 4. Could this have led to the eventual blown tire? Stephen Cox discusses the tire problems when the 5 car came into the pits early on. Excellent racing action with the 7, 50, 42, 32 cars. It was even better live and in person. Shortly after this, there was an interview with Josh Tucker, the 44 car crew chief - right before Kauffman hit the turn 4 wall VERY hard bringing out a caution on lap 43. Kauffman stopped the car on pitroad and I've gotta ask one question - why didn't the USAR official (who was at the car right away) help the driver out of car? The driver seemed to be his second concern. Other team members had to come over and help Joel out. TV had an awesome in-car replay, and an interview with Joel, who was a bit shaken up but thankfully was o.k.

Even though he was out of the race, Jay Fogelman gets camera coverage with a pre-taped cutaway to commercial bit. An illegal golf cart I think....We come back from commercial to a competition yellow (to check tires). TV never said what lap number it was. Then we had to see Kauffman's hard hit again and again. It hurt enough the first 3 times! Cox talks about Ross and his team's tire pressure decision. Ross wanted lower pressures than Goodyear suggested. Good shot of a tire by the mobile camera and discussion by Sutherland. We restart on lap 55. The turn 1 camera is awesome for restarts shot. No thanks to the stupid squealing car graphic to announce the Myrtle Beach race. Why? We get a full field rundown on lap 54. I'm still very thankful for the addition of the "laps down" info added to the rundown!

Stephen Cox talks about the 5 car's (Robbie Thompson) impounded engine problems leading up to this race. Interesting bit. Helps add more to the "story" of the race and individual teams. Lap 71 brings a blown motor by local favorite Brian Ross. Unfortunately his accident also takes out Gault and Sammons. Good turn 1 camera coverage. Good replays and analysis. The accident brings out the second red flag. More commercials. Another question - why are SPEED commercials so damn loud? Interviews with Ross and Gault were good. Pit action showed the 7 car and talked about the extra tires teams got for this race. No other cars were shown. TV even followed Laughlin's car off pit road instead of switching to other cars. Finally some mobile camera coverage of Eric Corbett's pit stop/overheating problems. I guess RC and Stephen were still hustling up and down pit road! Yet another commercial break. That makes 3 breaks since the red flag. It must mean a lot of the race will end up on cutting room floor. And then, a cardinal sin, they came back from commercial to the race already underway. How can you miss a restart on a tape delayed broadcast?

Despite the field being shrunk by the lap 1 wreck, there was still plenty of excellent racing. The 73, 15, and 11 had a great battle up front. We then see Pete Wormcastle on pit road - but no explanation of why. Then I heard about "problems upcoming on the 75 car"? Rick - pretend you HAVEN"T SEEN the script when you're broadcasting. As the race progresses, I started thinking that this must be the Robbie Thompson race. Multiple stories on the 5 team, not that they aren't worthy of it, but it seemed disproportionate. A feature piece on Robbie was good, but it took away from seeing the racing. There was plenty of great action on the track. Finally they came back to a great battle for lead. Corbett pits again and there was good mobile camera coverage and Sutherland describing the engine problems. Yet even more great action with 15, 11, 73, and 50 doing the honors this time. Oops, back to the 5 car - this time it's an interview with Jeff Gotelaer, PR rep for the team.

I noted that the track certainly doesn't look like 36 degree banking on TV. It's awesome in person. I also noted that the turn 3 camera started to look out of focus. The primary pit stops of the day occurred somewhere around lap 150. The mobile cam was in the 15 and 68 pits. Cox described the action well. What about other cars? Then we had only about 5 laps before another commercial. Back from commercial to see the lead battle involving the 50 and the 11. We see a happy 11 team as we go to another commercial. Back for more awesome action. This time, it involved the cars of Scott Baker, Hal Goodson, and Tim Bainey. A timely interview with Steve Scheffer, crew chief on Baker's car. He mentioned the help they were getting this weekend from Stacy Puryear. A debris caution on lap 200 leaves only 3 cars on the lead lap. I know it sounds boring, but believe me it was not.

Some pit stops allowed the broadcast team a chance to show the 55 car of Alan Bigelow in the pits and give that team some air time. We also got to eavesdrop on the 11 car communications with Puryear. Nice addition, and very much a part of the story. After a lap 207 restart, yet another wild event occurred. On lap 211, the lapped car #25 of John Gaunt was racing too hard to try and get a lap back and in the process he managed to cause a wreck which involved the only 3 cars left on the lead lap! What a bad deal. TV had some good replays and description. I do have to wonder why didn't Rick Benjamin attack Gaunt like he has in the past with Eric Corbett when a questionable driving move was made? The 11 car had to pit for damage repair, but we didn't get any coverage of the other 2 cars involved (50 and 15) to report on their damage. More communication between Puryear and Baker. Again, this was interesting to hear and a good lead-in to race strategy by having Puryear's involvement.

We restart on lap 218, and soon Goodson passes Bainey for the lead. Rick talks about the 15 car tire alignment problem (I guess from the previous wreck). Soon, there was a caution for Bainey as he was off the pace in turn 1. We never really heard why or what happened to him. More commercials and then "while we were away" Pete Wormcastle lost a tire. Sorry Pete, you ended up on the cutting room floor this week along with 15 or so laps that happened at this critical time in the race. Poof, before you know it, the race was over! Hal Goodson seemed pretty happy in victory lane. Baker was very professional during his interview. Scott Sutherland made a good remark about Gaunt finishing 3rd - "gonna be a lot of name-calling over that"!

Overall, a pretty good broadcast. A few missed moments and I felt that the last half hour was a little disjointed, but perhaps my expectations were too high since I was at the race and knew what was happening. I realize it's impossible to capture all the excitement, all the events of a race like Winchester, and then try and fit them all into an unflexible 2-hour time slot. It's unfair of me to expect the TV to be able to be as exciting as watching it live. It will never happen. Even a NASCAR broadcast with all their money, gadgets, and cameras can't show the viewer as much as being there. So I say thanks to the boys and girls in the booth, trailer, and behind the cameras. Once again, you put a quality broadcast on the air for USAR fans to enjoy! Until next time, I'm going back to my nap. You can send me email at

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