Thursday, March 8, 2007

ESPN Race Analysis is a Refreshing Return to, Well, Race Analysis

ESPN's NASCAR Busch Series racing coverage has been anything but Bush League. What a refreshing return to the race and the drivers being the main part of the show. Sure, FoxSports, TNT and Speed have excellent overall coverage, but after a few years of the same old, same old hype and sometimes downright silly schtick, it's nice to have racing commentators and analysts who actually talk about what is going on on the track and are not secretly rehearsing for their next NAPA commercial. Keeping it businesslike is a nice change of events.

Former Cup Crew Chief Tim Brewer has been a marvelous addition to the broadcasts as a race analyst. One of NASCAR's most successful crew chiefs in racing history, Brewer was on the comm for 53 wins, 55 poles and 2 Cup championships. What I especially admire is that he has a talent for explaining the more technical racing issues in layman's terms without being condescending to the viewers. (How many times have we heard the Fox 'experts' start every sentence with, "For you new racing fans...."?) Brewer has a quiet charisma, and his down-to-earth approach is certainly a blast of fresh air for long-time race viewers.

Rusty Wallace, in his second year with ESPN, is doing a most creditable and credible job. I have to admit I had my doubts about how he would make the transition from racer to broadcaster. And, of course, long time pro Jerry Punch is a most welcome sight for race fans as well. While I'm at it, I've been favorably impressed by Angelique Chengelis' reporting. This veteran motorsports write has made the transition to the booth smoothly, and it's such a delight to have a woman sportswriter of her knowledge covering races.

One can only hope ESPN maintains (and why wouldn't they?) their usual professional approach. And, please, Lord, let's not hear any 'Boogity, boogity, boogity' from the NASCAR Countdown commentators!! Somehow, I don't think we'll have to worry about that, though.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Montoya Scores First Busch Win in Mexico City and Thumbs Down to Scott Pruett

Juan Pablo Montoya had the fastest car and his car had one determined racer driving it. Leading most of the Mexico City Busch race on Sunday, a pit-stop mishap put him back in 21st position with about 24 laps to go. Passing on a road-course is treacherous at best, but Montoya raced his way up through the field, finally catching the current leader, Scott Pruett, who was driving the #41 Juicy Fruit car. Pruett, who is a teammate to Montoya, threw a block when Montoya made a move to pass him on the inside. Pruett's car got loose and spun. If you watch the replays a few times, you'll note that Pruett then attempted to steer his spinning car into Montoya's in retaliation, but Montoya, having the quick reaction time of the world class racer that he is, managed to avoid Pruett's car, go around him through the grass, and get back on the track.

Seems to me that Pruett's move to block and then try to wreck his teammate was a pretty classless move. Of course, Pruett whined after the race about Montoya 'taking him out,' but just because a driver gets camera time, it doesn't mean they're telling the whole story or what really happened....Pruett's on-camera 'thumbs down' gesture and remarks about Montoya may have been made in the heat of the moment; his team owners were more cautious and Chip Ganassi said he'd have to look at the tape before he commented on it.

If there's a faster car behind you, basically you have a handful of choices. Go faster and maintain your lead, get out of the way of the clearly faster car or, if you insist on trying to stay in front of a faster car and wind up wrecked, don't whine about it.

Congratulations to Juan Pablo Montoya on an exciting, well-deserved first Busch Series win. As I have said many times, there are drivers--and there are racers. Montoya belongs in the elite class of racers.

A little bumping and banging? Well, that's racin'.