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DATE News (chronologically)
08/23/10
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IndyCar needs to divorce Versus  UPDATE A reader chimes in - Dear AR1. I'm glad I was not the only one ready to throw things at my TV yesterday. The SportsTalk item (below) summed up some of the frustrating happenings but by no means all of them. First off....the show spans an agonizingly long 3 hour time slot. Now don't get me wrong, I think there should be enough time to have good pre and post race segments. But 3 hours! The casual viewer will be put off by this and even the die hard, which I used to be, will find this to be an eternity especially given the banal and uninteresting garbage we are forced to sit through before the flag drops. The interviews and other items are just plain boring and repetitive. Pure fluff and filler. Two and half hours of concise and well edited action is more than enough for any one.

Then we get to the "action"...or lack of. As mentioned in the article, it was amazing how long it took these experts to figure out what had happened in the start shemozzle. Aren't these guys there? Or are they in a studio somewhere else. Even if they were then the producer should have picked up on this within seconds of it happening...not minutes. And the interview with Barnes was as stated, simply unreal.

Following the usual 5 lap yellow we got down to the race and ...nothing. No passing, no excitement, lap after lap of follow my leader. Our intrepid producer and commentary team then focused on some mid pack action while the ticker showed that suddenly Power had opened up a few second lead and Castroneves had been passed by Franchitti.

Had I blinked? I rewound the TiVo but could not find the action. Then after a full lap, one of the announcers let us know what had transpired but without any video or other details. This was one of the most important part of the race so far and very relevant to the championship standings and nada....no comments or replays.

And so this spec racer borethon continued. Lap after lap of inane commentary and equally tame video. Maybe it's the cars but surely the producers could place some cameras in positions that make them look like they are actually going faster than a Formula Mazda. I won't go on about our resident moving chicane, Milka Duno as even the commentators excluded her from the march through the grid section. I also won't dwell on the stupid passing rule which might allow for some overtaking but completely flies in the face of all normal racing protocols. Talk about phony!

I certainly don't remember Mansell, Fittipaldi, Rahal, Unser or Andretti needing such rules to get the job done. Just another reason the crap wagons need to go and a return to open competition between chassis and engine manufacturers should be instigated.

Meanwhile, Will Power was putting in a truly great drive which we all knew would be destroyed once the inevitable yellow came out. And here is my biggest beef. Why oh why does it take so bloody long to move a stalled car from a safe inside corner location? Why even bring out a full course caution? I know the safety team are a bunch of hard working guys but to watch them sometimes is like watching grass grow. Animated is not a word that springs to mind. It takes forever for them to arrive on the scene only to saunter around like there is no urgency or need to get back to the action. Thus many times each race we are subjected to between 4 and 6 laps of yellow boredom while they recover a car that has simply spun out and caused no damage to anything. Just watch any F1 race to see how even a major accident can be cleared up in less than one lap.

We all hate the false yellows NASCAR throws to bunch a pack but I believe that Indy Car Race Control also has a similar agenda. I was ready to explode as I watched Power's deserving victory get jeopardized by 2 stupid full course yellows at the end of the race. And just to illustrate my point, note how the flags were not shown when there was a real reason in the last laps due to a car and then a safety vehicle parked right in the middle of the final turn. The break to adverts was simply unbelievable with just 5 laps remaining.

There are many reasons IndyCar or whatever it?s called today is failing. But yesterday the Versus broadcast and the actions of Brian Barnhart certainly focused on a few of them. If the series is to continue and thrive I believe it's time to dump both of them. Ray Masters, Hawaii

08/23/10 There was some promise when the Izod IndyCar Series paired up with Versus before the 2009 season. The IndyCar Series would be out of the shadow of NASCAR as the only motorsport on the network, and Versus could devote time and coverage that ESPN couldn’t. It was the IndyCar Series’ chance to establish itself.

And that hasn’t happened. As we reach the two-year mark of their relationship, it’s obvious that it needs to be broken up because Versus is the television equivalent of a deadbeat husband.

Ratings for the IndyCar Series haven’t cracked 250,000 on occasion this season. To put that in perspective, that’s near the capacity of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway watching the race across the freaking country. Yes, DIRECTV’s sour relationship with Versus late last year kept viewers away, but let’s face it, it’s not like millions of potential viewers were being blacked out.

Sunday’s race at Sonoma was a perfect example of how Versus has butchered their television coverage from the beginning. NASCAR fans are accustomed to seeing the national anthem at every event. At Sonoma, the anthem was audible in the background as pre-race host and pit reporter Lindy Thackston continued the pre-race.

Dan Wheldon got clipped by Bertrand Baguette — that crusty fellow — as the field accelerated towards the green flag and almost flipped over the pit wall, scattering the cars as they crossed the start/finish line. Bob Jenkins, Robbie Buhl (a co-owner of Dreyer and Reinbold, a team in the series) and Jan Beekhuis in the booth had absolutely no idea that a crash had occurred, and were puzzled about the ugly looking start. And then, when cameras finally found Wheldon sitting upside down on the frontstretch, the three wondered how it happened with the intrigue level of a fifth grader forced to do a math problem during recess.

Viewers finally got a replay — and a very good in-car view from Wheldon’s car — but stunningly, the seemingly interminable wait for the replay wasn’t the worst part about the network’s coverage of the crash. While Wheldon was in the infield care center, Thackston caught up to John Barnes, his car owner for Panther Racing. After Barnes said that he didn’t know what exactly happened in the crash, Thackston’s second question was some gobbly gook about the National Guard (Wheldon’s sponsor) and soldiers and overcoming adversity.

No, I’m not making that up. (Later, when Wheldon dodged her question about what happened in the crash, Thackston made no attempt to follow up and get an answer. And I really wish that someone on the ESPN pit reporter team had asked Darian Grubb Saturday night if the Old Spice man was truly on a horse after the crew made extensive repairs to Stewart’s car.)

When a caution flag flew in the late stages of the race for Baguette’s stalled car, it set up a restart with six laps to go. Scott Dixon was on eventual winner Will Power’s tail through the first green flag lap, and while Power gapped Dixon a little bit, Dixon was still within range with five laps to go.

And, inexplicably, Versus cut to commercial. Yes, they’ve kept up the IndyCar staple of side by side coverage during commercials, but this was with FIVE LAPS TO GO IN THE ENTIRE RACE! If that had happened in a Camping World Truck Series race — let alone a Sprint Cup event — our servers would have been crashed from the flood of comments.

If Versus makes die-hard racing nerds like me want to throw things at my television, I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a casual viewer tuning in to a race. Oh, wait… there probably aren’t any casual viewers tuning in given some of the ratings numbers. Sports Talk

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