CHAMPCAR/CART: SPEED Channel Champ Car lineup press conference, Part III

Champ Car World Series An interview with The 2003 Speed Channel Broadcast Team Part 3 of 3 Q: How do you work on improvement each year? Kendall: I see a shrink. (Laughter) Last year, I think we came out blazing last year and really, like I...

Champ Car World Series
An interview with The 2003 Speed Channel Broadcast Team

Part 3 of 3

Q: How do you work on improvement each year?

Kendall: I see a shrink. (Laughter) Last year, I think we came out blazing last year and really, like I said, I think if you listen to what people say, it really kind of set a new standard in production for these types of races.

So we are starting from that point. Just, I think another year, working together, behind the scenes people technically and the on camera people, Terry mentioned a major component with the new vendor, on board. People wondered why we did not use the on board as much last year, and the reality was a lot of times we could not get them to work because of the equipment we were dealing with. That may not seem like a new deal but the new vendor means a lot more on board.

As far as myself, I think like I said, people look to me for not pulling any punches, knowing what I'm talking about, but also coming at it very candidly. And so I admitted that I pulled a few punches last year in the interests of trying to have everyone pull together, so this year, I'm actually looking forward to being a little bit more unplugged in that regard.

So really the quieter I get in terms of just sitting back and deserving it, calling the race like I'm sitting in my living room with some buddies is the mindset I try to recreate and I know that I am going to be asked - when I'm at home I'm a very demanding viewer and when I'm watching TV, if I see something that the guys calling the race don't see it, that ticks me off, and I know that's the standard I'm held to. Everybody on the team having so much racing experience helps out to such a large degree, you get more insight of the questions, you are able to make forecast some potential situations developing because you understand. Things like that, which are small. But I think over the course of the year, into our second year, we'll improve.

Fish: A lot of it comes with the continuity of the broadcast team staying together. It comes from the chemistry that gradually happens throughout the year. Certainly through the year we were fine tuning things and at the end of the year Scott went up to the booth for a couple of races and really seemed to click up there with his expertise, being a recent Champ Car driver. Terry and Doug and Jim and everyone involved with SPEED made that decision to keep Scott out there, and I think it's going to be a great lineup for this year.

The more you work together, the more it clicks. I think at lot of people thought our last show was the best at Fontana, but I think maybe one of our best shows was Australia where we had several hours where with the cars running around in the rain but we were still able to keep it entertaining with the chemistry of the guys down in the pit lane and the guys up on top.

Q: When did you decide it was detrimental to be going full boar?

Kendall: I think I was probably still beyond the limits of what most guys would do, but I made the conscious decision, it stems from the fact that all of the team owners had a gun to Chris Pook's head. So like I said, when I come on and say that guy is acting like an absolute jack ass, he's going to come to him and say, "This is the kind of treatment I'm getting I'm out of here," which most of them were out there having anyway. If there was a chance for Chris, I didn't want to put a monkey wrench in anything he was doing so. I pride myself on being the guy that pulls no punches, but all things considered, that was probably the right call. I think I probably still said some stuff that most people would not say, so I don't think it ever got vanilla. But I think there were times when I just didn't say anything when I could have embellished sort of thing.

Fish: I think one of the great ones was in Cleveland when you put Wally Dallenbach on probation. (Laughter).

Q: Let's talk about education of the fans, Derek. We've talked about this in the past, bringing more people into the fold, how do we go about it this year?

Daly: There is no doubt in my mind that the foundation of every sports franchise is it's personalities. If you look at any baseball team or a football team, pick any one, pick the Chicago Bulls, you never went to see the Bulls; you wanted to see Michael Jordan or [Dennis] Rodman.

So this thing, again, is personality driven, just like NASCAR, its personality driven. The love/hate relationship that people have with their drivers or hate with some other drivers, and we are, I believe, still, our job is to bring forth the personalities. Find a way to actually bond these personalities with particular viewers because there is no doubt you don't watch a race to see how good the competition is. You get a link or a bond with some driver, whether you like the way he looks, he's got flare, he had a big crash, he's from your hometown, your country, whatever it is.

So digging deep and to bring out these personalities is what we were all good at last year. The biggest problem with racing is there's a corporate veil over these guys where they are afraid to say anything. They are afraid if they don't say the right thing that the sponsor does not look good because he didn't say the right thing. That is crap for the type of thing that we are trying to produce which is the genuine person, which is why we tried to grab Chip Ganassi; immediately, he reacted - that is why you get him, before he composes himself. Personality drives everything, and that's what I believe will ultimately drive the ratings up.

Q: You did a great job with CART Friday Night. Anything similar we'll see this year?

Lingner: CART Friday Night is a Friday qualifying and we are not doing it this year.

The issues were, quite frankly, the costs associated with going in on Friday. And what we started to do when we talked to Terry, okay, are we going to do this, and if you are, Saturday and Sunday starts us off, just because of the realities of the economics of the way things are today.

So the decision was made to keep on Saturday and Sunday and make those as good as possible and SPEED Channel is going to be starting a show on Sunday nights called Wind Tunnel that will be covering the races, as well, not exclusively, but what we are looking to do - when we look at open wheel, quite frankly, in a global manner. We have added F3000. We are going to be doing the Saturday/Sunday at CART. We want to try to blow it out a little bit more. So we are trying to grow the sport in a more organic and overall manner across the network.

But Fridays, you can look at all of the spin or anything else, but truth is Friday we are cancelled strictly because of economic reasons, and we want to keep Saturday and Sunday at the quality we need to.

Liberatore: The thing is, too, the fans this is a testimony to Terry and our talent. Our first race last year, we received 16,000 e mails thanking us for finally covering Champ Car the way it deserved and it's amazing how educated these fans are. They know exactly what's good, what's bad and it's something that helps us throughout the season because we are accountable.

Q: Do you find you don't have to dumb down the broadcast for CART fans?

Lingner: That's an interesting dilemma for us because we want to attract more fans. I think CART's biggest advantage, quite frankly, is that they are struggling, because you read about CART struggling, CART struggling, but you don't read about open wheel struggling. So maybe there's a sense in the IRL or F 1 that they are not struggling but CART understands they have to make this better. That's why we have a team of five guys. That's why we do Saturdays and that's why we get into the personalities because Champ Car understands that the world of open wheel right now is not acceptable as it is. And that does not just mean Champ Car; that means everybody. These ratings have got to go up where they deserve. So we have a dilemma of dumping down the telecast and bringing in new fans. We have that dilemma. Thank goodness we have guys like Bob who understand both sides of it and we try to play that in the middle.

The ratings have got to increase and we have got to make that happen, and I think that Pook and Champ Car has done their part, so now we have to do ours.

Kendall: When I first started listening to the Jim Rome Show, it was Greek to me. I didn't understand anything that they were talking about, but instead of saying you know what, I like the overall flavor of it, it excited me. And instead of saying you know what, I don't understand it, I'm going to tune it out, the way I am, that's just a challenge to dig in and learn more about it. And there was no patronizing because I think that's something that we need to not just give fans, but potential new fans, a little bit of credit is if you present something and show something that's exciting, even if it's a little bit Greek to them, I think if it interests them enough to watch it, they will be interested enough to investigate it a little. You cannot be too super insider but that's something against dumbing it down.

That's my experience, and I find that in other types of things. I'm a naturally curious person. If I see something that interests me, I'm not put off, I'm challenged by that. That's kind of my take on that.

Varsha: I think what Tommy just said, that reflects the challenge of any broadcaster to reach out to everyone and give them something that intrigues and entertains them. You are never going to be able to speak to one element of what Jim rightly describes, a very sophisticated audience and satisfy everybody. There are a lot of casual viewers who need to be intrigued and other folks who know nothing about it who need a basic primer without turning off those sophisticated fans that we have an enormous number of at SPEED Channel. This is the drivers, they are not cookie cutters. They are not, jump into a car and racing for wins and champions. There are young guys, older guys, everybody may be in a different place in their career, their team, some guys get along great. At the end of last season, some guys were not getting along well at all with their teams. Everybody has an individual story to tell. And within doing that, within the time and budget constraints of a race, it's a challenge to everybody.

Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Chris Pook , Chip Ganassi
Tags TV