More Reflections On Indianapolis
I’ve now watched the full recording of the ABC/ESPN telecast of Sunday’s race, and I’ve got to say that I’m disappointed – although I really shouldn’t be. I should have known what to expect. I really got no answers to a lot of questions I had when I left the track on Sunday. Some of the many questions I had were; how did Alex Tagliani drop from fourth to fourteenth around lap 75? How did Danica Patrick suddenly end up in sixth after languishing in the back half of the field most of the day? What actually put Sarah Fisher out of the race?
Although I got a great tour of the impressive ESPN production facility on Sunday morning, I have to say that the telecast was lacking. The camera shots were good and I can’t fault them for being away at a commercial when there were lead changes or accidents – there is no way of knowing when something is going to happen. I’m also a fan of all four pit reporters that ESPN brings to Indianapolis. Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch, Jamie Little and newcomer Rick DeBruhl are top notch. What I continue to fault them for however, is the trio in the booth.
Marty Reid, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever have absolutely no chemistry together; and the entire broadcast suffers for it. I don’t want someone screaming at me as Todd Harris did the one year he hosted the broadcast – but Marty Reid sounds like he is more suited for the Home Shopping Network, describing a set of fake diamond earrings. Scott Goodyear drones on and on as a good cure for insomnia, while Eddie Cheever simply sounds like he doesn’t want to be there.
I really think Cheever is the biggest disappointment. I remember in 1997, Cheever was an early out in the night race at Texas and was invited to the booth. His commentary was hilarious and insightful. For years, I always thought he would be a natural to slide into the booth when his driving days were over. This was Cheever’s third year in the booth for the Indianapolis 500, and he’s given me no reason to think his chemistry with the other two will improve.
Perhaps if he were to do more races with Reid and Goodyear, he could loosen up – but he comes across as stiff and boring as Goodyear does. I don’t know if he has been told to back it down from when he was in the booth at Texas that night, or if he was just winging it in Texas and is now operating from a script. Whatever the case, Cheever does nothing to spice up the dreary teaming of Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear.
Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear have been together for more than twice as long as the Versus crew, but the trio from Versus acclimated themselves to each other quickly and come across as old friends. I’m still a big fan of Paul Page, but I don’t think we’ll ever see him on an Indianapolis 500 telecast again. But there are others out there who would probably kill to have that gig. Marty Reid comes across as if this is something to keep him busy until NASCAR starts up on ESPN in the second half of their season. What made Paul Page so great is that he loves the Indianapolis 500 and it showed. The same goes for Bob Jenkins at Versus. Marty Reid sounds like this is nothing more than a job to him. They need to get someone who loves the event and doesn’t treat being on the telecast as work.
One final note about the broadcast – one thing that ABC/ESPN has done an excellent job with, has been their openings for the Indianapolis 500. The last two years in particular, have been excellent. The opening for this year however, bordered on the bizarre. I just didn’t quite get the idea of a bunch of suits being the keepers of the Borg-Warner trophy. Hopefully they will do something better than this for next year’s centennial celebration.
As far as the race goes, I’m becoming more accepting of Dario’s victory. After hearing Tony Kanaan say that the best car won on Sunday – who am I to disagree?
The odd thing is, as I stood in the stands and watched Dario Franchitti dominate this race – I kept asking myself why I had a problem with it. Franchitti was always one of my favorite drivers – long before he married Ashley Judd and moved to Nashville. In fact, his spouse always tempered my enthusiasm for Dario. I always found Ashley Judd and her sister to be a little annoying, but Dario has always maintained a low profile here in town.
I followed Dario ever since he started driving for Carl Hogan in CART in 1997, before switching to Team Kool Green the following year. I was pulling for him to win the CART championship over Ganassi’s Juan Montoya in 1999. They tied in total points, but Montoya won the tiebreaker based on more wins. He was the main reason I was originally an Andretti-Green fan when the team moved over to IndyCar’s in 2003 – just before he broke his back in a motorcycle accident prior to Indianapolis.
I was thrilled when he won the IndyCar race at Nashville in 2005, and was ecstatic when he won at Indianapolis in the rain in 2007. I didn’t blame him for being miffed when Michael Andretti blamed him for Marco’s woes at Sonoma that season –when Marco almost cost Franchitti the championship. However, he lost some points in my book when he left the IndyCar Series to jump to NASCAR for the 2008 season – to join Chip Ganassi, of all people.
Although I’ve never mentioned it much here, I’m not a Chip Ganassi fan. Even if I weren’t a big Penske fan, I don’t’ think I would be a Ganassi fan. About the only time I can ever remember pulling for a Ganassi driver was when Jimmy Vasser drove for him. When Dario announced he was coming back to IndyCars for the 2009 season, I greeted the news with mixed emotions. I was glad to have one of my favorite drivers back in the series, but it was going to be hard for me to cheer for him driving the Target car. I know…it’s stupid, but that’s the way I felt.
So now that I’m a couple of days removed from the race – I’m a lot happier for Dario. There is no question his car was the class of the field and that he is a classy driver. I was just disappointed that Kanaan’s effort fell a little short.
Five years from now, when I look back on the 2010 Indianapolis 500 – what will I think of? It will probably four different things in no particular order. The first that will come to mind is Tony Kanaan driving the race of his life, I’ll think of the stifling heat, I’ll recall Dario’s total domination and of course, the accident that sent Mike Conway flying into the catch fence on lap 199. Every race has a few mental images that define each one for me and those will be the ones for 2010.
In yet another shameless plug, I did another interview for Crimsoncast.com on Monday night, talking about the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500. He said it should be up later tonight (Tuesday), so check it out.
Tomorrow, I’ll have some pictures from the weekend posted up here. Thursday, I’ll focus on my tour of the ESPN production facility and Friday, we’ll look ahead to Texas.