From the Pocono Pulpit: 2014, Off to a Better Re-Start than the Drivers

Takuma Sato in Turn 1

HUZZAH FOR BROADCASTING!!!

Well, the Verizon IndyCar season is officially underway. (Do you have your fine jars ready for every time you say ‘IZOD IndyCar’)? The race was really nice to have IndyCar back—-but it was not really all that exciting, like most St. Pete races. Still, it did bring about some very, very refreshing changes.

First was in the radio booth, the voice of IndyCar radio changed—-for the better. We gained a true fan of the sport and series in the one and only, Paul Page. Since I was a kid, Paul was the voice of IndyCar racing on TV. I even had the pleasure of working once with Paul. He was the main guest on a show I did with Jeremy Scott. We (myself & Jeremy) were both giddy to have the pleasure to work with such a legend. While yes, Paul is not a kid, and in a few years there may be a new search for a radio voice. Paul Page is still a great change for the better at IMS Radio.

PippaAnother refreshing addition for St. Pete, was hearing the one and only Pippa Mann in the booth for the big cars. Pippa can bring experience driving the current liveries and engines, that older retired drivers may be lacking in first hand experience. Certainly, Pippa is one of the most fan friendly personalities the series has now. Some would say Pippa has given more than she can ever receive back in helping IndyCar build a great bond with fans. (Pippa might not agree). I really would like to see Pippa in a car more this season. But, if that is not in the cards for many events, it is great to hear Pippa’s color commentary during live coverage.

2014 also did not just give us a great change in radio. The new ABC booth has significantly improved this season. I know a few of the snobs (who shall remain un-named) bemoaned someone from another discipline of motorsports covering IndyCar. Well, Allen Bestwick is a true professional. He unlike previous on-air talent, actually studies the press kits, and keeps his spotter’s guide handy. Allen is a great talent, and a great broadcaster. He really has made Eddie and Scott sound better in just one week. Although, I wouldn’t mind seeing someone replace one of those two for future events as well. But, just having Bestwick in the booth has really made me enjoy the color duo more. (But the day TK retires is the day, someone will need to be separated from ABC. Because, how could that guy not make for great color?)

WE CAN START, STOP, BUT NOT RE-START

Now, all the great broadcasting changes aside—-we wouldn’t be open wheel fans unless we had something to gripe about. Whilst the coverage was great, well, same old IndyCar. Mainly when I talk about re-starts. Granted, IndyCar does not have 100 yellows during a race like NASCAR. But, it is hard to say these are the best drivers in America when they look like a monkey and a football (to steal a Days of Thunder reference) on re-starts. Let me say what it looked like on TV.

Verizon12It looked as if Will Power hit the brakes to avoid taking off before a specific point. Now, was he trying to bunch up the field as so many quickly accused him of? Or was Power trying to avoid a penalty for jumping a re-start? Well, again, there seems to be a great deal of trouble in re-starts. You don’t need endless phantom debris cautions like NASCAR. But, you shouldn’t look like ARCA either. Perhaps there should be an effort to actually conduct re-start practices to force teams to work on this before any qualifying takes place.

Yeah, I know the knee-jerk reaction. No one wants to wreck their primary cars in practice. And THAT is the problem. Instead we see a field get wrecked on re-starts during races on National television. There has to be a reasonable way to handle this. But, with everything in IndyCar (much as in life), there is always a group of people who complain loudly. It may even cause splits.

THANKS DAVE!!!

Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan-Racing-LogoFirst, as someone who has grown up with David Letterman on late night television. I will be sad to see him go. Yes, his style is corny, and maybe dated to Millennials. But some of us like old school. IndyCar team owner David Letterman announced during last night’s Late Show, he will retire in 2015. The news was leaked earlier in the day, causing a huge bump in his audience for the night. With that, the segment following Dave’s news came from–St. Pete.

The Firestone “Grand Pricks”, as the Late Show “intern” called it, was the location for a comedy segment. Giving IndyCar great exposure, before an audience most likely still larger than that of the race itself on ABC days earlier. Not only did Verizon IndyCar teams get great exposure for sponsors, but the series got great exposure in general. Before that night, how many average Americans knew Will Power was more than just a motivational term? Apparently it is also an Aussie who has a love of urinating in Nomex.

Again, it would not be a comedy segment, without a little Hinch. Although, Power may have stolen the show with his salty nature. But considering all the things people send via cell phones in today’s society, I doubt Verizon is shocked. Personally I enjoyed how Power turned the “Grand Pricks” around on the intern. I guess, he basically called the guy a wanker. Which as we learned post race Sunday, Will reserves for people he does not like. But does Helio feel the same way?

LONG BEACH REMAINS, FOR NOW

Long Beach

Long Beach officials decided to extend their agreement. Seems they feel safe that IndyCar is not going to close shop in the next few years. I guess the Verizon series sponsorship helps. But I know the knee-jerk open wheel pessimists will say otherwise. Not that I’m one of the un-named “unicorns & rainbows” propagandists that also linger in the IndyCar universe. (Some who fail to mention the interest they may actually be working for in their “coverage”). Still, I think IndyCar is looking good so far in 2014. As long as the people in and around it can keep the ship on course. Occasionally, Peter “Wrong Way” Peachfuzz seems to become captain and tries his  hardest to imitate Captain Hazelwood of the Valdez.