WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Saturday afternoon’s unique “multi-vantage point” broadcast of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen, in my humble opinion, was a rousing and much-needed success.
In fact, it was so much so that NBC Sports lead anchor for the weekend, Leigh Diffey, announced prior to the end of the scheduled television time on NBCSN that what was originally intended to be a one-off occurrence would be brought back for Sunday’s telecast of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
I may be a little biased, seeing as how I’m a public address announcer and I’m attuned to finding ways to keep a crowd drawn in and focused on the entertainment, but it was the most entertaining telecast of any NASCAR race from a standpoint of talent and content that I’ve watched in a long time.
To recap, Diffey and Steve Letarte led the broadcast from the main broadcast tower on the frontstretch, with veteran Motor Racing Network turn announcer Mike Bagley making his television debut and picking up the field going through the ‘Esses’.
Parker Kligerman handled duties from the Turn 5 Carousel and Jeff Burton called the shots from Turns 6 and 7.
For much of the day, the commentary and camera work was handled in exactly the same fashion as a traditional MRN radio broadcast, with each station ‘dropping’ the call at the end of their vantage point to be picked up by the next station, providing for a near-continuous description of the action with video views, to boot.
“Road course racing presents a unique and challenging opportunity to provide turn-by-turn in-depth analysis,” said Bagley of the challenges of calling a road course race.
And Saturday’s race broadcast was certainly unique by comparison to the norm.
Unlike a traditional telecast, there was more action visually and instead of drawn-out analysis all afternoon — trying to fill in dead air during duller periods on track — viewers got to hear more calls of the on-track action and specific analysis from each vantage point.
Once I got used to actually hearing Bagman’s voice coming from the TV (because trust me, I checked a few times to figure out why my radio wasn’t on), it was arguably the most refreshing change of pace I’ve seen from NASCAR TV in a long time.
At several points during the day, Kligerman even jumped in over the main booth to bring commentary from accidents in the Carousel, which is an occurrence that would rarely, if ever, happen outside of Saturday’s setting.
It all added up to what was, in my opinion, an insightful presentation that did much more to draw the viewer in, something that I feel is sometimes forgotten in the modern-era of auto racing coverage on television.
I felt like I was listening to a radio broadcast with the television images to back it up, something that I’ve heard many fans say over the years they’ll do on the weekends: mute the TV commentary and sync the MRN or PRN radio broadcasts to what they’re watching for a “more exciting” afternoon of racing.
That was what fans got on Saturday: a more exciting broadcast.
I get that it’s not feasible to do for many of the oval tracks on the schedule, because of how different and spread out the road course presentation is on TV, but Saturday’s concept is one I’d like to see utilized again down the road if it’s possible to make it work.
In a lot of ways, NASCAR has (again, in my opinion) gotten away from what one of its heavier focuses should be: providing an entertaining product not just for the at-track fans, but its television viewers as well.
They did that on Saturday, and hopefully, another equally (or moreso) exciting race on Sunday will allow for a second opportunity to do the same.
And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a great thing for all the fans at home.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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