IndyCar Booth Choices Facing TV & Radio
As we all know, there are two main anchor jobs up for grabs for the 2014 IndyCar season – the announcer spot for ABC/ESPN caused by the departure of Marty Reid and the anchor chair for the IMS Radio Network that came open when Mike King stepped down a couple of weeks ago.
Since ABC broadcast the Indianapolis 500, next May will be only the third time in history that there will be a new “Voice of the 500” on television as well as radio. In 1988, Paul Page moved from radio to television and Lou Palmer, a familiar voice in the Indianapolis market, took over radio duties – albeit for only two years. In 1999, Bob Jenkins moved over from radio to television and Mike King assumed his duties at the IMS Radio Network.
Curiously enough, Mike King held his seat at the IMS Radio Network longer than anyone except for the legendary Sid Collins who held the job as chief anchor from 1952 through 1976 before he passed way in May of 1977.
I’ve vented enough about Marty Reid over the years, that I’ll leave him alone now that he’s officially off the network. My opinion of Mike King was not as harsh. Although I found his voice to be a little irritating, I had no problem with Mike King’s race day delivery. When Nashville had their famous flood in 2010, our local ABC affiliate dumped coverage of the Kansas race in order to cover the ongoing flood. I was forced to listen to Mike King over the internet. I was very pleasantly surprised. He did a good job with his descriptions and I felt he painted a picture with his words.
Where I had problems listening to King was during practice and qualifying. His on-air dialogue with Davey Hamilton when there were no cars on the track, revealed that he had no awareness of the day-to-day news of the day that a simple subscription to Trackside Online or the listening of a Trackside podcast would have told him. He came across as clueless as to why a driver was in danger of losing a ride or why certain sponsors were no longer on a car.
When he sounded like he was delivering a scoop that no one else knew about, it would be a news item that we had all heard three weeks earlier. Davey Hamilton seemed to be doing damage control constantly, while trying to cover up King’s gaffes. But I will emphasize – I had no problem with his actual race coverage, which was the most important part of his job. He was passionate about the sport and you could tell he loved his job.
But now that Reid and King are both gone, who will be hired to take their place? I know who I would like in either booth, but it probably won’t happen in either – Paul Page. Page would bring an unmatched passion to either booth – TV or radio. Not only is he passionate, but he has a style that is easy to listen to and he is extremely knowledgeable about the past as well as the present and future. But I get the impression that Page made someone mad at ESPN and is not wanted back for whatever reason. Plus, Page will turn sixty-eight just before Thanksgiving. That may be considered too old for the young fans that the series so covets. I don’t think he has made any enemies on the radio side and he carries the distinction of being Sid Collins’ hand-picked successor. That should count for something.
But more than likely, Paul Page won’t be tabbed for either spot. If that’s the case, who might be picked? There have been all kinds of names tossed about. On the TV side, the pick that makes the most sense to me is Vince Welch. He is a racing fan at heart. He has covered the series from the pits for years, even before covering NASCAR for ESPN. With NASCAR a lame duck series on ABC/ESPN for next season, it makes sense to let him go ahead and move over to the IndyCar side – especially since all of the ABC IndyCar races will be run at the first part of the season, long before ESPN picks up NASCAR in the second half of the NASCAR season. Welch is likeable, has a good delivery and has the knowledge and passion required for the job. I think he would be an excellent choice.
On the radio side, I’ve heard many names, but there are two names that stand out to me that both make sense – Mark Jaynes and Jake Query. Both have vast experience on the IMS Radio Network and either one would do an excellent job. Quite honestly I’m torn as to which one would do the best job. If either of them got the job – I would be just fine with it.
Some might think I’ve neglected Kevin Lee. If you listened to Trackside last week, you heard him say that it would be a dream job, but the timing is not right for him to pursue it. In all candor, he has a bright future with NBCSN and that is a much more lucrative gig.
Whoever gets the job, will probably be heavily scrutinized. Mike King was not popular with a lot of fans. The best thing you could say about Marty Reid was that he was not Todd Harris. Both positions need to be filled with someone who will resonate with the current fan base and be able to connect with new fans, as well. Some say that an announcer makes no difference in luring in viewers. That may be true, but they certainly have the ability to drive viewers away.
Hopefully, each entity will make the right choice. NBCSN has had two outstanding announcers in their IndyCar booth in Bob Jenkins and Leigh Diffey. Now it’s time for the IMS Radio Network and ESPN to follow suit. If not, the Legions of the Miserable will have something new to gripe about to the Sunshine Squad.