FOX Sports’s new-look booth will have a still familiar feel to it, as Greg Creamer moves from his triple threat role of IMSA Radio’s booth, pit reporter and PA/podium announcer into the FOX commentary position this year for IMSA’s TV coverage, as IMSA adjusts its TV strategy and presentation for the 2016 season.
In a wide-ranging Q&A with Sportscar365, Creamer discussed how the opportunity arose, what changes viewers should expect, and the challenge of taking over for one of racing’s most recognizable voices, Bob Varsha, as lead announcer.
How did this opportunity, and transition, present itself?
“First, I’m hugely excited. It’s an amazing opportunity. And it’s kind of nice, in a way, that it’s going to come full circle. I was in the booth for the American Le Mans Series for a couple years, from when it was SPEED and some of their network shows.
“Things change and evolve, and I was fortunate I was able to somehow be able to maintain a connection with IMSA and sports car racing at this level, able to work with MRN two years ago which got me back into IMSA Radio and the like. To come back is fabulous.
“That said, it was a huge surprise. When this was first broached with me, they said they were looking to make some ‘significant changes,’ but ‘we can’t talk too much about it at this stage’ other than to say, ‘You would be an important part of it.’
“I love this type of racing. The first race I ever saw in my life was a 1,000 km endurance race in Germany. So I’ve been connected to this forever.
“But in all the machinations that ran through my mind, given these cryptic hints – ‘Are they expanding IMSA Radio? Are they going to start a midweek radio show?’ – in all these things I never envisioned this. When they offered it to me, it was a jaw dropper and it didn’t take long to say sure.”
What changes will there be with a studio-presented format? Is it going to be a major adjustment?
“I think adjustment is the right word. The most ideal scenario is to be [on-site], no question. You get the boots on the ground.
“The problem is, and what a lot of people don’t really grasp, is how much money it takes to do the conventional old TV model is massive. For a series to be able to sustain something now in terms of a broadcast TV package, you have to think outside the box a little bit. It’s just so expensive.
“When you look at the amount of money you save by not having to travel all these people to the track and can do it in Charlotte, and you don’t need all the ancillary equipment, which is rental costs and all that, the numbers add up in a huge hurry.
“Here’s the adjustment part. We’ll have to work the phones more. We have to rely more on Brian (Till) and Justin (Bell) who will be there. We need to ensure the teams have our contact info and there will be more calls during the course of the weekend.
“But some of the money that saves is going to be repurposed. We’re going to have some aerial coverage (helicopters), which we haven’t had a lot of in past. There’s a lot of repurposing money into different technologies.
“I think it’ll be an adjustment. If the content is good, and what we’re providing is good for the viewer it’ll be fine. That’s on us. We have to get the job done.”
Are there mixed emotions replacing Bob Varsha? How does that sit with you?
“Absolutely. He’s a dear friend. Really, the comment I would make there is I think Bob Varsha is the gold standard in motorsports television broadcast hosts, end of story.
“For me to be able to succeed him is an honor. It’s that simple. He’s got such skills he’ll be fine.
“It’s a little awkward, yes, but things evolve. We go back to when I was doing TV in the booth for ALMS, and that changed. Things are cyclical a little bit.”
Does this prevent you from doing World Challenge broadcasts or is that still the plan to do those as well?
“I’m very fortunate… I’ve talked to the people at World Challenge. The last couple years, that’s been my primary series when there’s been a conflict.
“I told them what was going on, they said, ‘You’ve been good to us the last couple years, and we want to support you. We want you as part of World Challenge. We’re gonna make it work.’
“So I’ll be doing both. If there is a direct conflict, I’ll be doing (IMSA) races.”
What stories in particular are you keen to tell this year?
“I don’t think there’s any question the big story is GT Le Mans and the Ford Ganassi program. That’s huge. When you think about that class, it’s a look at the manufacturers and a look at the history of sports car racing. Ford vs. Chevy. Ford vs. Ferrari. Ferrari vs. Porsche. Aston Martin. BMW. It’s amazingly compelling stuff.
“The manufacturer involvement with GTD, with the GT3 cars, fortunately having done World Challenge, been calling the GT3 stuff. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. That’ll be phenomenal too.
“Single-class racing is high-speed checkers; you’re only trying to leapfrog the car in front. But here, multi-class racing, especially endurance, is high-speed chess. All the pieces are moving at different speed, and you have to be thinking not just moves, but stints ahead.
“And I think Calvin (Fish) is the best in the business at that and strategy reads. I really want to explain what’s so positive about the multi-class format.”
“There’s so much that is really exciting about this. In a way to me, this is the new era. New era in GT Daytona. A change with GT Le Mans. The last year of the current Prototypes, which will be fun. I think this will be an exciting year.”