I was asked to be a part of the eight Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget League television broadcasts that will air on MAVTV later this summer. Along with those shows, I will also be doing four sprint car races from Anderson Speedway, including the famous Little 500, also airing on MAVTV.
I ran a midget at the high-speed, high-banked I-70 Speedway and won three of the four races that weekend and took second in the other. I also ran another midget race at I-70 before that, but from what I remember I didn’t get many laps before something broke.
Running a midget on a high-banked half-mile versus a little bullring is obviously different and you have to hustle the car a lot more on the bullrings. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s a sprint car, late model, midget, or whatever kind of car, you have to be more aggressive on the small tracks, especially if it’s a dirt track with holes and/or a big cushion.
It’s no secret that midget racing has gotten more and more aggressive in the past few years, with hair-raising slide jobs sometimes being the norm. It definitely teaches drivers how to be aggressive but also maintain momentum, because the midget doesn’t have the horsepower to instantly pick the speed back up if the driver is running the car too sideways or jumps the cushion.
There has been a surge of very young men and women who get into midget racing in hopes of being noticed and possibly getting a chance at the “big time” like some others before them. Many of these youthful drivers are coming from the micro ranks, and some of them make it look like they’ve been racing midgets for years.
I have always followed midget racing but, admittedly, don’t know a lot of the drivers personally, especially with all the recent influx of young drivers. But it will be fun to get more involved and get to know the drivers and teams better, and to follow along to see how the season shakes out.
Regarding the Anderson Speedway broadcasts, I never raced on asphalt, but I won many races, including World of Outlaws races, in daytime conditions when the tracks were black and were very similar to racing on asphalt. Like asphalt racing, the key to racing on dirt in the daytime is to run the car as straight as possible to not abuse or overheat your tires. You have to be easy on and off the throttle – especially getting on the throttle, to not spin the tires, which obviously overheats them and will also wear them out faster.
Several years ago, Bobby Gerould, who was a pit reporter and play-by-play announcer for many years with the World of Outlaws television broadcasts (and is still the P.A. announcer at several tracks in California), Tony Bokhoven (the voice you hear at the Knoxville Raceway events, who also has extensive TV experience) and I did a season of the TORC off-road truck series which aired on SPEED TV. We all agreed it was something that was new to all of us, but we also knew we had each other’s backs and we made sure we did our homework and were prepared.
I’m sure there were some who asked why they would bring in sprint car guys to broadcast their series. But, to our surprise, many of the teams and drivers were sprint car fans and most welcomed us with open arms and were more than willing to help answer any questions.
It was a little unnerving, especially when the shows were done live to tape, which means we were at the track calling the races live as they were happening and they recorded everything to air at a later time. Just like when doing a live show, any major mistakes we made were put out there for the whole world to see.
Bobby Gerould was the play-by-play announcer, I was the analyst, and Tony Bokhoven was the pit reporter. As an analyst, my job is to explain the how and why of what the TV viewer is seeing. I spent a lot of time looking over the trucks and seeing the differences between the classes and asked a lot of questions.
It was exciting for me to learn what changes they made under certain conditions, and it also opened my eyes to the fact that if I didn’t know something about the trucks or why things worked the way they did, chances were some people watching at home didn’t either. So, it was a reminder that, even when I’m doing a sprint car broadcast, it’s OK to explain something that might be obvious to many of the viewers, as there may be some who are watching who might not have any idea how or why certain are the way they are.
That’s why I occasionally explain how and why a sprint car has a smaller left rear tire than the right rear or what the wing does on a winged sprint car. Those things are very obvious to veteran sprint car fans, but I have to keep in mind that there might be someone who is tuned in to the broadcast who has no idea what a sprint car is, not to mention what stagger is or what the wing does.
So, like with any broadcast, it will be my job with the POWRi midgets and the Anderson Speedway events to make sure that the first-time viewer understands some of the things that the diehard fan already knows.