CHAMPCAR/CART: An interview with TV broadcast, production team, Part II

An interview with: Derek Daly Tommy Kendall Scott Pruett Calvin Fish Bob Varsha Terry Lingner DOUG SELLARS Q Anyone who wants to answer, but the drivers are training so hard, they're doing a lot of testing these days, what do you guys do ...

An interview with:

Derek Daly Tommy Kendall Scott Pruett Calvin Fish Bob Varsha Terry Lingner DOUG SELLARS

Q Anyone who wants to answer, but the drivers are training so hard, they're doing a lot of testing these days, what do you guys do between races? You have three weeks off. We heard Tommy say he's been test driving.

Bob Varsha: Tommy goofs off most of the time.

Q I wanted a little more detail. I know there's more to come.

Derek Daly: I mean, I tend to be busy with my performance driving academy in Vegas. That is almost an everyday assignment that I have to keep in touch with. I do quite a bit of public speaking. So I travel not a huge amount, but over the last three months it's been more than normal.

And just -- but although we're not at the track, this occupation actually is somewhat all-consuming. There's something almost every single day that you become aware of or you get a phone call or you get an e-mail from this CART broadcast environment that we're in. I mean, the e-mails are flying back all the time, which just keeps every one of us plugged in.

So although I certainly have quite a bit of other activities going, on an everyday basis, you're still never far away from being connected to each of the significant players here, which is part of the reason why we'll continue to gel and grow and be better and better as this season goes on.

Bob Varsha: As the only non-racer in the group, obviously my day-to-day responsibilities are to the SPEED Channel network. I co-host our Saturday and Sunday night SPEED news program. I spend my weekends, whether I'm at a CART racetrack or not, sort of immersed in all sorts of motorsports.

Probably like Derek and all the guys on our team, I'm on the Internet just about every day checking as many sources of reliable information as possible. And when I start reading about things that I already knew about, that's the first indication that perhaps I've completed the circle.

I also stop into the chat rooms to see what the fans are finding good or bad about our broadcast, what they'd like to see more or less of, and so on. So, as Derek says, it's an everyday sort of commitment.

Tommy Kendall: I'm just as committed. As you guys know, racing is very glamorous and the TV side is very glamorous, as well. Being here in Los Angeles, I take that very seriously. I try to have lunch at Fred Segall's at least twice a week so can I say hi to Meg, Mel and Arnold. Other than that, you know, I'm -- I'm glad I'm being backed up by some hard-working serious journalists.

DOUG SELLARS: I hope you have all or celebrity buds out at Long Beach to have our guys to interview.

Tommy Kendall: All the beautiful people will be there. Jim Michaelian does a good job, and Chris before him, of assuring that.

Calvin Fish: We got back from Mexico, a day later we were down at Sebring. We did the 12-hour -- actually 13 hours of coverage on SPEED on Saturday. It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks, but we had a great event down there.

I still love the sports car racing. Alongside the CART responsibilities for this year, I'll probably do probably another five shows for SPEED in other capacities.

Bob Varsha: Don't rub it in.

Calvin Fish: I know Bob likes to be at as many events as possible. Everyone missed being down at Sebring, we had a good show there. I'm in competition with Derek in terms of running the Mid-Ohio driving school, which gets kicked off next month.

The summer months are certainly going to be a challenge and a juggle to keep everything going, you know, stay on top of everything.

But, you know, being around Tommy on a race weekend, the biggest problem, biggest work load is really dealing with all the females who keep slipping me their cards and wanting Tommy to call them. I'm still working through that from Mexico.

Derek Daly: Calvin does have a new girlfriend in Atlanta. He was very descriptive in Mexico about her.

Bob Varsha: Can we have an update?

Calvin Fish: Not for public record (laughter).

Bob Varsha: Turn down all your celebrity buddies down in Mid-Ohio, Calvin?

Calvin Fish: Really.

Tommy Kendall: In all seriousness, like all these guys, it's obvious we're huge fans. I did what I do when I wasn't on the television, I can't just get enough of the information. Fortunately, that's what I do to prepare, as well.

And so it's just, I mean, it's kind of a dream job for me because I get to come to the races and have fun and talk about what I love. And the preparation is something I would do whether I was on the air or not.

Scott Pruett: I'm pretty much doing the same thing. You know, getting up to speed, watching some of the Formula 1 race last weekend. Last weekend was a full event between Sebring and IRL and the Formula 1 race and the NASCAR race. So, you know, pretty much staying on top of all that, and still training, still doing a lot of training, looking to do a couple TransAm races this year, maybe a couple sports car races on non-conflict weekends. You know, staying on top and trying to learn more about the whole TV industry.

It's been exciting for me personally. And also learning a lot about wine grapes right now actually. I'm up here in Washington, which it just snowed up here yesterday. And within a 50-mile radius, there's thousands of acres of wine grapes, some great Cabernet and Merlot coming out. That, as well as my three kids, got me pretty well in hand right now.

Bob Varsha: I'd like to add one thing with regard to preparation. I'd like to publicly thank all the CART PR people who to my view do a terrific job of writing informative press releases. I know Derek has experienced a Formula 1 press release before, which is a tremendous waste of living trees on virtually every occasion.

It's nice to be in a series where somebody actually explains, if they had a problem and how they had a problem, and don't insist they're making progress and have good prospects of a productive weekend if, in fact, they don't. That sort of candor is much appreciated.

Moderator: On behalf of the CART PR teams, we'll accept that compliment and pass it on.

Q A question for Bob. You do the nightly -- weekly night show, news show, on SPEED Channel. Has there been any discussion of making that a nightly show like RPM 2Night is? RPM kind of got behind the NASCAR drivers and brought them in every night, interviewed them, kind of make them more well-known. Has there been any discussion doing that at SPEED?

Bob Varsha: With regard to the CART series, you mean?

Q Yes.

Bob Varsha: Not so much that specifically, to the best of my knowledge. I can say that the long-term business model, if you will, for the SPEED news program does include expansion. How many nights, I don't know. I have heard as many as four nights, perhaps Thursday, Friday, as well as Saturday, Sunday. But that's the extent of what I've heard. So I guess the answer is yes, and a qualified no.

DOUG SELLARS: The other thing to think about in all this is unlike ESPN, SPEED is an all-racing channel, and in any of its news programs will need to service all its constituents in terms of F-1, IRL, CART, NASCAR, WORLD RALLY, et cetera. I think that show will always be in its form a little bit of something for everyone.

I think it shows, like CART Friday Night, which will start to cater more obviously to specific race series. We see other shows airing on SPEED Channel like Totally NASCAR -- servicing the NASCAR community. They're out there. Whether the CART Friday Night type show goes to an expanded schedule would be more of the question.

At this point there are not plans. But SPEED is certainly a developing major cable channel, as I think we've all seen since the switch-over. I think anything's possible at this point.

Q Doug, has there been any consideration of showing lap segment times to the viewers, how they compare driver to driver?

DOUG SELLARS: Certainly was one of our big discussions going into Mexico. We continue to discuss with the folks at CART in terms of the data, where traps are around the track and how we can develop a better system, certainly in qualifying of knowing exactly how a guy sits as he goes through traps, which would allow us to do a better job of following guys on hot laps who have a real shot at taking over a pole, let's say, over finding themselves in the top five.

In terms of races, absolutely, we'd love to see where drivers rank in segment times. It's something that we'll continue to work with the data folks at CART. Then it's always -- the problem always is how does that then translate to a television graphic and how does our system work in terms of interpreting that data quickly?

Terry Lingner: Just quickly I'll let you know we're at -- a note that I wrote earlier today, this is without even talking to TK or Bob or the guys that can look at the graphics. But I've asked, if you look at your circuit map for Long Beach, I asked them to -- at least CART timing and scoring, our interface folks, our associate producers, go on to look in the stretch between turns five and six, which is the split L03 if we're going to be exact here, is a good place for us to start quickly identifying who's on a real flyer and let us react before they get back to the backstretch and find the next driver, start working on rankings that way.

I think no matter what, we have -- in this day and age, I think there's always a constant problem between the best telecast you've ever read or the best telecast that has graphics that complement the story line.

So my personal philosophy is I love technology, but I want to make sure that it's harmonious. So to answer it more directly, we're working on one specific place on the course rather than just make it, you know, a smorgasbord of information, and hopefully that will help bring the viewer along and let us ease into making sure we can disseminate the information.

Q I know you guys have gotten a lot of questions about the reach of the SPEED Channel, the number of households it's in. The ratings came out, surprised a lot of people, including myself, higher than I even expected. They're still not necessarily as high as a network rating would be. What do you see in terms of demand for SPEED? Is it month by month, what kind of percentage increase are you seeing in terms of number of households it's getting into?

DOUG SELLARS: Probably talking to the wrong guys on that one. I'm probably the only one who could speak to any of it. All I know at this point, it's really a question for Jim Liberatore, our president. I believe we have cracked 15 million homes. You know, ultimate goal for the channel is to hit the 70 to 80 magic number.

And I don't know what they're tracking at these days. It was quite an increase I know in the last 12-month period, and certainly a huge increase in the last three months. But not really equipped to talk about much more than that, unfortunately.

They just tell us, "Keep making all these great programs and we'll get into all those homes."

Part III Boradcast invterview

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Pruett , Calvin Fish , Derek Daly , Tommy Kendall