If you tuned into ABC’s broadcast of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, you saw a race. A good race. A case could be made for a great race. Regardless of where it ranks on anyone’s personal excitement scale, the point is that you saw a race.
Granted, this was on ABC, which may as well stand for Always Bad Commentating. The delivery and timing of Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever certainly lived down to expectation. Fortunately, Allen Bestwick and Dr. Jerry Punch were able to elevate the race broadcast to an acceptable level of tolerable.
There was so much more going into the actual race that anyone who tuned in would never have known, let alone know how they may have affected Sunday’s race. Here’s how it played out in the Race Fan household.
In the 30 minutes leading up to the broadcast, the local ABC affiliate was airing a televangelist, so I watched something else. About 10 minutes before TV time, I turned on the IMS radio stream. As the television broadcast begins with the splashy graphics and recap o Scott Dixon’s path to the championship, IMS radio is playing pre-race ceremonies. As the pit reporter interviewed James Hinchcliffe with a welcome back, the Star Spangled Banner was being sung on IMS radio. Afterward, they described the flyover!
On TV, the interview cut to commercial after the Hinchcliffe interview and returned to drivers starting pace laps as they began to go through the starting grid.
WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?!?!?!?!
My wife even noticed it and asked if we were live on the DVR. I was certain we were, but I checked anyway. On this rare occasion, I wasn’t wrong.
ABC aired absolutely no pre-race to the season opening race, reinforcing my belief that The Mouse (as in Mickey, figurehead of Disney, which owns ABC and ESPN) hates motorsports.
Here’s a list of the obvious stories that could have filled a half hour or more of pre-race, should ABC give a rat’s ass (pun intended):
- The polesitter, Will Power was so sick that Penske had to arrange for Oriol Servia to fill in at the last minute, including having a seat shipped form Indianapolis and his helmet from California!
- The circuit was damaged in the final practice session Saturday from DW12s bottoming out on the exit of turn 3. The track had to be repaired overnight.
- There is a phenomenal class of rookies this 2016 season, including a dirt-track ace, two former Formula One drivers, a graduate of the Mazda Road To Indy ladder and two members of legendary racing families!
- A respected, performing team split up, half of the team apparently dissolving.
ABC did mention Power’s illness as they resented the starting grid, namely because they had no choice. The driver that won the pole wasn’t in his car, and the car was not in its rightful place at the front, so there was some ‘splainin to be done.
At some point during the race, Dr. Punch did give an update on Power’s condition, which included symptoms of a concussion. AS such, concussion protocol was being followed, although that was not known at the time the decision was made for Power to sit out. As of this writing, further diagnosis has revealed that Power did not suffer a concussion, but was suffering an inner ear infection. There was concern after Power put his car in the wall in the opening practice session Friday.
There was a huge kerfuffle that appears to have been started by Carlos Munoz arguing over space, and ended up with over a half-dozen cars stopped and at least four damaged. Rahal ended up being spun backwards, then got a head-on from Jack Hawksworth, who was himself bumped into Rahal. Graham’s arms-up expression of sheer frustration was priceless from his on-board, especially because he was in the process of expressing it as he gets nailed a second time.
As a result of this caution, one of the rookie class that got no mention pre-race was leading! Friend of the show, Conor Daly stayed out on the second of a pair of closely-spaced cautions to lead, mixing it up with other frontrunners Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud and eventual winner Juan Pablo Montoya. Granted, he did botch his first restart, causing a wave-off. Give the kid a break – he’s a rookie!Unfortunately, Conor had some contact rejoining after his final pit stop, requiring a nose replacement.
The race was all Penske, though. The final pass being in the pits, as Montoya was able to leapfrog Pagenaud, who dominated early. JPM. being JPM, he trotted off to the checkered flag.
It’s a real shame that after such a long off-season, Verizon IndyCar returns with such a mediocre broadcast. The race was good, but you only got a minimal feel for why it was an exciting race. I should have expected no more from ABC. But really. Why?!?!?!