Tag Archives: Mike Dunn

MEDIA MATTERS: What Happens in Vegas: ESPN2 Broadcasts

31 Mar

No secrets allowed; ESPN2 is here. Broadcasting the SummitRacing.com Nationals from the luxurious The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the ever-seeing camera eye snatched losers’ pained looks, too-close-to-call finishes and general drag racing mayhem. When David Grubnic two-stepped his Bounty Hunter Special dragster in the fourth pass of second round qualifying attempts, the camera caught the legendary Conrad Kalitta’s pained grimace looking every bit like one of his hoard of 747s had crashed.

How Conrad Kalitta looks when he is happy; celebrating a Top Fuel win with Doug Kalitta

How Conrad Kalitta looks when he is happy; celebrating a Top Fuel win with Doug Kalitta

Instead, what the grimaced expression signaled was misery; misery and despair that could only be solved by replacing Grubnic. What that look also revealed . . . this wasn’t just a hot-collared call. The pot appears to have been boiling prior to this mistake; much like a coach telling a player not to do something, and then the player immediately goes out and does it anyway, Grubnic got the bench. The pot boiling beneath the lid finally blew the lid off. Then the team released a quick press release indicating “. . . a change of direction . . . ” for the Kalitta team. A hurried call made to young up-and-comer, J.R. Todd, gaming it at home on an off weekend, worked a deal that had him in the cockpit Saturday. Nothing revealed on the travel front, but if a flight couldn’t be found in time, Kalitta Air could certainly come to service.

Color commentator, Mike Dunn, called the start-line problem a racing deal: “These things happen.” Lead announcer, David Rieff, added that Kalitta, the patriarch of the sport is “one successful man.” Starting in the year 2000 with three 747s, he now owns more than 22 of those beasts along with other aircraft. His air freight company exceed $400 million in revenue becoming one of the world’s largest 25 airline companies. He owns it 100 percent, a self-made success story extraordinaire. When driving for a racer like Kalitta, on the drag strip since the late 1950s,  a mistake is not likely to set well at all.

GEICO Top Fuel driver, Richie Crampton, to test after new Kalitta driver, JR Todd, left on him big time (photo by Mark J. Rebilas)

GEICO Top Fuel driver, Richie Crampton, to test after new Kalitta driver, JR Todd, left on him big time (photo by Mark J. Rebilas)

Grubnic’s side of the story? “This has been going on a while,” he said to Dunn, referring to talks about him sitting out of the racecar perhaps becoming a crew chief. The odds favor the remark could also refer to Kalitta’s displeasure in the friendly Aussie’s ability on the track.

The first round matchup of Todd vs. the GEICO/Lucas Oil Dragster piloted by newcomer, Richie Crampton became the Upset Alert, a gutsy call by Dunn as Todd had little experience in that racer and the outfitting of the seats and pedals all had to be done very quickly. Crampton had a miserable light. “I was dead late on the Tree,” Crampton said. “He ran an .82, which was a decent run. I’ve got a feeling we could’ve run a little better.”

Todd’s day ended in the second round though he had a decent run; benefiting was Steve Torrence in his Capco Contractors Dragster.

ESPN Sports Center carried the new national MPH trophy snatched by Courtney Force at 325; a one mph better record than dad, John Force, and a new track ET Record to go along with it. Unfortunately, Cruz Pedregon sent her home in the second round of eliminations without getting a backup time to secure the big speed trophy. The 16-time champion retains the record.

Alexis DeJoria's crew and other Kalitta Motorsport team members hit the jackpot in Vegas.

Alexis DeJoria’s crew and other Kalitta Motorsport team members hit the jackpot in Vegas.

For the second time this year, Robert Hight wheeled his Auto Club Mustang into the final round of Funny Cars but lost again to Alexis DeJoria’s Patron XO Cafe Camry in her second win of the year. She now has three Funny Car trophies. Earlier comments hinted at the good results when she said, “I feel really good about today.” She has been in the 2014 finals twice in four races thus far, sealing any questions if she is the real deal. The summer heat makes these beasts behave even more weirdly than normal, so her championship run won’t be easy as the season progresses. However, it is tough for all drivers. The Patron XO Cafe Camry has a decent shot to win the championship. Rieff summed it up with the two women starring in the weekend’s positive events: “The ladies are getting it done.” And DeJoria is a Kalitta Motorsports team member.

A championship burnout for Alexis DeJoria

A championship burnout for Alexis DeJoria

After only winning two rounds all year, Tony Shumacher’s U.S. Army entry passed Doug Kalitta’s Mac Tools Dragster in the track’s second half to take the win by a margin of victory that would just about equal Grubnic’s height: a little more than six feet. Kalitta Motorsports enjoyed a great day: one win, one final round and one new driver;  maybe a new crew chief with Grubnic, too.

Doug Kalitta at his Gator Nationals win (photo courtesy AP photo, LA Times "Sports Now")

Doug Kalitta at his Gator Nationals win (photo courtesy AP photo, LA Times “Sports Now”)

Veteran reporter Gary Gerould summed up the race in a comment he made at the broadcast’s opening: it’s a “. . . wacky weekend.” And a take-a-way lesson: don’t screw up a billionaire’s dragster dreams, or your jet will be parked.

 

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