A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a great radio call can paint a colorful portrait of NASCAR racing.
Some say it's difficult to appreciate the sport while watching on television. Like ice hockey, it's hard to judge the speed and power of cars going 200-plus miles per hour, even with the benefit of HDTV.
If you happen to be driving on a Sunday afternoon during a Sprint Cup race, you don't need video to get caught up in the excitement of MRN (Motor Racing Network) coverage of an event. Providing play-by-play of this sport is no easy feat.
In most sports, the broadcast team features a play-by-play announcer, a color commentator (or two) to provide analysis, and a sideline reporter for up-close observations.
In NASCAR, play-by-play duties are shared by a team. For events like superspeedway races, the arena is much larger than a 100-yard football field or a 94-foot basketball court. Daytona International Speedway is 2.5 miles around; Talladega, the longest track in the series, is a 2.66 mile loop.
So the MRN broadcast crew divides the track into portions; then they literally tag-team the play-by-play duties. While Barney Hall and Joe Moore serve as broadcast co-anchors, they are joined by Lead Turn Announcer Dave Moody, and a stable of Turn Announcers, including Mike Bagley and Jeff Striegle. Winston Kelly leads a team of pit reporters.
While television crews set up cameras a multiple angles around the race track and throughout the pits and garages, these radio guys scale scaffolding and for a bird's eye view of the action. Others slip into fire-resistant suits to brave the sometimes-dangerous pit road. Then they all tackle the challenge of describing the battles between 36 teams, the strategies of pit crews, and every second of the action.
The lead cars take the green flag and the action is picked up by the lead announcer. As the cars head into turn one, another play-by-play man raises his voice, describing the sometimes three-wide action. When the lead cars are just out of his sight, yet another voice comes through your radio to pick up where the last left off. When there's a crash, wherever it is on the track, that leg's announcer breaks in to call the action. When the drivers head to the pits, announcers trade off commenting on key cars with blow-by-blow accounts of tire changes and fuel top-off's.
The exhilaration in their voices is palpable, and it's hard to keep your own heart from racing as you hear the drama unfold. Perhaps the most exciting race to call in recent memory was last week's Sprint Cup finish at Talladega, when Dale Earnhardt Junior pushed Jimmy Johnson across the finish line in a four-wide sprint, won by a whisker.
It's truly remarkable to hear the teamwork and expertise of the seasoned crew of MRN professionals. If you haven't listened in, you're missing out.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.