We Will Miss Jack Arute

The last couple of days have produced a flurry of news items regarding the IZOD IndyCar Series. Most of it pertains to who has signed a last minute deal or what driver is left on the outside looking in as the 2011 season is about to get underway. On Monday, we got the official word from Versus as to who the on-air talent will be.

The good news was that Bob Jenkins, Jon Beekhuis and Lindy Thackston would all be returning. It was also revealed that Versus will have a weekly show, beginning May 3, that will be co-hosted by none other than Robin Miller. I’m a Miller fan, although I realize others are not. He tells it like it is, or how he sees it – but most of the time, he ends up being right. Versus also announced that Robbie Buhl and Robbie Floyd would not return. Not to sound insensitive, but whichever way they went with those two made little difference to me one way or the other. One change they made did upset me, however – Jack Arute will not be returning.

Like most bloggers, I have picked on Jack from time to time and had some fun at his expense. His props ranging from cheese graters to bowling balls got a little ridiculous, and at times he gave the appearance that he thought he was the reason that fans tuned in. We bloggers were also relentless at poking fun of his sweat-soaked blue shirt at Motegi that was only overshadowed by his poor sense of geography on the same telecast. But did I think Jack should be fired? Never.

If you take Jack Arute at face value and underestimate his knowledge or passion for open-wheel racing, you are making a serious mistake. His trade may be broadcasting, but his love is the Indianapolis 500. Like Paul Page, he was living the dream – being able to get paid doing something that he actually loved doing.

Up until last year, Jack Arute had been behind a microphone for every Indianapolis 500 since 1986. He did double-duty in 2009, serving as a pit reporter for the ABC telecasts, and into a more expanded role for the Versus races. For 2010, Arute moved over and did the Versus races exclusively. Whether or not that was his choice, I’m not sure. I have been led to believe that Jack voluntarily left ABC after 24 seasons in order to focus strictly on IndyCar racing and the fledgling Versus channel.

If that is the case, then Monday’s announcement is even more troubling. To make a career move and cast your lot with a network you plan on helping to grow is noble. To have new owners come in and tell you that your services are no longer needed or wanted is despicable. Despite his playfulness, Arute is no longer a young man. In today’s world, where a Paul Page is cast aside in favor of a Todd Harris, it’s apparent that experience and knowledge no longer matter in the booth, so long as you look like you’re under 25.

Aside from his props, it has been Jack’s passion for racing that has been his earmark. It was that passion that led him to cover Danica Patrick’s win at Motegi, Japan in 2008, then hop on a plane and be in Long Beach the very next day to cover the Champ Car finale. He wasn’t told to do that for ESPN – it was his idea.

During his time at ABC/ESPN, Arute served in many roles. He was an excellent college football sideline reporter for years, but it was always open-wheel racing that stirred his blood. At the Indianapolis 500 last year, it was odd not having Jack Arute in the customary role of interviewing the winning driver in victory lane for ABC. Still, he had a large role with Versus throughout the month of May with their excellent qualifying coverage and their post-race show.

Now, that’s not to say that I’m displeased with his replacement. Kevin Lee has been added to cover the pits alongside Lindy Thackston. Kevin has earned this shot over the years. He has been on the IMS Radio Network since 2001 covering the Indianapolis 500, then covering the series full-time since 2004. He and Curt Cavin are co-hosts of Trackside on 1070 The Fan. Kevin is also a sideline reporter for the Colts and covers the Indiana Pacers as well. Most recently, he has helped create an excellent 10-part radio documentary heard on Sunday mornings at 10:00 EDT on 1070 The Fan entitled "The Centennial Celebration". He likes to have fun on the air, but takes his job very seriously. His hard work has paid off and he’ll do well in this role. Lindy Thackston has proven herself for the last two years and I think they will make a great team.

But somehow, Jack Arute needs to have a presence on someone’s airwaves at some point this season. I don’t know if a return to ABC/ESPN is possible, but if it is – both parties should jump at the chance. Like Paul Page, Gary Gerould and Dr. Jerry Punch – Jack Arute’s voice is synonymous with the Indianapolis 500 over the past twenty years.

I’ve said many times that I live by the code “Change is Bad”. I understand that change is the one constant we all live by. Sometimes it’s for the better, many times it isn’t. While I welcome the paring of Lindy Thackston and Kevin Lee, I want Jack Arute to land on his feet. Hopefully that will happen somewhere involving the IZOD IndyCar Series. It would be a winner for everyone.

George Phillips

29 Responses to “We Will Miss Jack Arute”

  1. Leigh O'Gorman Says:

    Sad to see Arute dumped George – and you’re right about both his passion and his ridiculous props. As for the occasional error on air, they’re made by even the most seasoned professional; however there will always be numerous armchair experts that will claim they can do it better. Nonsense.

    To be honest, I was a little surprised that Arute wasn’t partnered with Miller for the weekly show – many may not agree with this, but a dual Miller / Arute fronted show could really have been quite entertaining. I could easily see how Miller’s occasional cynicism and hardened nature being offset by Arute’s more friendly demeanour. Both are extremely knowledgeable and passionate, so would be surprised if it were not considered at any stage.

  2. The Lapper Says:

    I am going to miss his passion and his comraderie with the drivers, team members and officials. Arute is a character who is enjoyable and honest. You can tell that he loves the sport and his segments were always fun as well as interesting for this viewer. I will miss Jack Arute. By the way, his book on Indy anecdotes is an enjoyable read as well.

  3. Hmm, I think i agree, but I enjoyed Arute more in the traditional pitlane reporter role than the pitlane-analyst role (what was the need for that when there’s analysts in the studio…) – i’m guessing the powers that be agrees since there doesn’t seem to be someone to fill that role again.

  4. Good riddance, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Jack. I’d like to be more charitable toward a guy who’s been put out to pasture, but honestly, I found his on-air style annoying and insulting to anyone with even a modicum of enthusiasm for open wheel racing. While he obviously has passion, experience and knowledge, his tendency to pander to the “casual fan” made him the weak link on the VS broadcasts. IndyCar needs a reporter who speaks the language of the hardcore fan, without dumbing it down for a general audience. Someone like … Robin Miller!

    • Xrunner is dead on. Jack constantly insulted my intelligence and I always felt like everything he said was targeted toward the first time viewer. His continued presence was the biggest dissapointment to me with the move to Versus. It is one thing to talk at a level that reaches a broad audience and another to go out there and be a clown. Regardless of his passion or (well hidden) knowledge of the sport, he was just a clown.

      • And one other thing: Arute needs to pick up a dictionary sometime and learn the actual meaning of the word ‘nominal.’ I cringe every time I hear him say ‘a nominal pit stop.’ What a dope.

  5. Tampa Joe Says:

    George, you’re quite the hypocrite aren’t you? You were always one of the first to pile on Jack Arute when he made a goof or if you just didn’t like his style. You and every blogger out there made yourself look like TV experts kicking Jack while he was down. Now that he’s been canned you act like he’s been mistreated. Bloggers make me want to puke!

    • Oilpressure Says:

      Nothing that any bloggers said had any effect on Jack’s status. Most of our comments were made in good fun – admittedly, at Jack’s expense. As for your disdain of bloggers – why are you here? – GP

      • indygrrl Says:

        I agree, if you hate bloggers so much, why do you read them? Ah, the “Legions of the Miserable” have returned. As inevitable as the beginning of the racing season…

    • Leigh O'Gorman Says:

      @ Tampa,
      I think you’re overstating the numbers of bloggers that slammed Jack in the last couple of years. In fact, if you were to look at bloggers for sports and other entertainment, there will always be a selection that heavily criticise the presenters – that’s just the nature of modern audiences.

      As for bloggers wanting to make you puke, you must have a very low vomit threshold!!

  6. Donald McElvain Says:

    Why is it “Doctor” Jerry Punch and not “Mr.” Paul Page, etc. On TV it’s always the “Dr. Jerry Punch” and not just his first name and last name? Happens all the time on television. If racing were a medical show I’d better understand it. I know some doctors and they all want to go by their first names. Period. One even told me if my mother wanted me to be called “doctor”, she’d named me that. I don’t understand why Jerry Punch gets more “respect” than the other coommentators.

    • bentwickerbill Says:

      Because he has actually done some things in the capacity of a doctor that have endeared him to many of those that work with him…. e.g.
      Punch worked as an emergency room physician before moving to ESPN in 1984 as a pit reporter for NASCAR races. In 1988, in two separate incidents, he helped with the rescue efforts after the serious wrecks of Rusty Wallace and Don Marmor. In the case of Rusty Wallace’s front-stretch crash at Bristol Motor Speedway, Punch happened to be on Pit Road at the time, and as a result, was the first person on the scene before the rescue crew could be scrambled. Punch’s medical training proved pivotal, as Wallace was initially unconscious following this practice-session crash. Punch revived Wallace, who was able to start the following night’s race with only minor injuries, driving for about half the race before giving his seat up to a relief driver. Wallace now works with Punch in ESPN’s coverage of NASCAR.

      Punch is also credited with helping to save Ernie Irvan following a practice crash at Michigan International Speedway in August 1994. Punch also had aided injured pit crew members on pit road in several races in the 1990s.

      While Punch was addressing a Nashville Superspeedway media luncheon he was interrupted by a loud crash from the back of the room. Punch immediately rushed from the podium to the back of the room where Jenny Gill (daughter of singer/musician, Vince Gill), a Nashville Superspeedway intern, had fainted. Punch helped revive the Middle Tennessee State graduate student. She was taken to a local care center for observation and soon recovered, according to Sean Dozier, the Superspeedway’s public relations director. Punch returned to the podium and resumed his speech. He is also a renowned neurological physician.

      For some people, placing the doctor in front of someone’s name is still a show of respect and in this case I believe also a sign of affection and admiration. Personally, I wish that both he and Jamie Little were still working the pits at the IRL, however, I also like Kevin and Lindy quite alot and will miss Jack to a certain degree…

  7. I think the new Versus crew might be better balanced and I look forward to watching their coverage.

    On the other hand, the boring ABC bunch (I’ll exempt Vince Welch) could use Jack Arute.

  8. Bob Jenkins puts me to sleep. He comes across like a mid 1990s computer voice program. Paul Page has me watching NHRA from time to time. Hopfully Jack comes back to espn and does a few races and covers College Football again.

    • bentwickerbill Says:

      Definitely glad to hear Bob Jenkins & Jon Beekhuis will remain, love those guys and when it comes to racing Beekuis actually knows WTF he is talking about…. I am simultaneously gleeful about the departure of one Robbie and not so gleeful about the departure of the other… Can you guess which?

  9. Kevin Lee is brutal. Granted Jack Arute is a little funny sometimes, but he is way better than Lee. I thought maybe he still had a contract with ABC and with the merger they couldn’t have him. I would look for him to work at the speedway if he is totally out of work like Jenkins did a few years ago. Speaking of Jenkins I hope he can just get the cars right this year.

    • Simon Garfunkel Says:

      What in the world is wrong with Kevin Lee?? How can you say he’s brutal and not give examples? Can it be…you CAN’T??!?

  10. billytheskink Says:

    Arutes role (as uh… host? propman?) on the Versus broadcasts just never worked. Like Brent Musburger “hosting” the Indy 500 broadcats, it never felt necessary. I do not understand why he wasn’t given more traditional pit reporting duties, that was always what he was best at.

    While I always appreciated Jack’s knowledge, passion, and experience covering the sport, I never cared for his roles outside of pit reporting. He can come across as brash, too often to the point of obnoxiousness. I think traditional pit reporting duties reigned this in, and his time as a “booth” member or host of a broadcast might wind up showcasing it.
    He would do well hosting a recap or commentary show, where being brash is good entertainment.

    I will miss Jack, though I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. He was very good in the pits, and one of the sport’s few visible links to the sunny days of the past. It’s good to have guys like that.

  11. jerrycruz Says:

    I’m still missing Paul Page as he really was passionate about open-wheel racing. He understood the IndyCar stars and created interest and provided inspiration for the fan to follow the sport. I will also miss Jack Arute although I would write that he was getting too funny at times. If we want to connect to the 15-20MM fans “lost” we should have familiar voices and faces that those people recognize.

  12. I’m sorry for Jack but I’m glad to see him gone. He Indycar’s Darrell Waltrip and I can’t think of much worse insult than that to give someone who’s on TV covering racing

  13. Arute and Robin Miller. Together? Okay–I could see it. The show would be in black & white and sponsored by Aqua Velva or Hamm’s beer. Jack would have a catchphrase like “ring-a-ding-ding” everytime Danika appeared. And Robin would hit him with his hat.

  14. Ugh, I think I am the only one but I hate Lindy Thackston! I think she is like nails on a chalk board!

    Would like to hear Bobby Unser, Paul Page, Danny Sullivan, Bob Varsha and Jon Beekhus in any combination. I think that the crew last year sounded stale and glad to hear they are moving some of them around but I don’t get the feeling that any of them know about racing as much as they want to promote what is cool and hip (Danica, the big 2). Not much useful strategy or history lessons with this crew!

  15. Get Arie L. or Eddie Cheever in the booth. They have both contributed to the local Indianapolis race coverage and are a real hoot to listen to. Honest, frank, and yet down-to-Earth.

  16. Lindy Thackston is brain dead. Jck Arute has finally gone to the Chris Economaki How Was It Out There Mario? Graveyard, and rightfully so. Bob Jenkins needs a teleprompter, Dallenbach has no basis of information from which to narrate the action since he never raced open wheel. That leaves Jon Beekhuis as the only decent guy in the booth. How could these idiots get it so wrong? Oh right it’s the TV morons in charge. I forgot.

  17. A lot of good things were said above. For me, living in Indiana, the 500 is about a lot of things and you can’t deny one of the things the 500 is about is tradition. Florence Henderson, the Hullman family, Jim Nabors and so forth. Jack Arute is part of that tradition and it’s just a shame that people can’t see that. People who probably have no ties to Indiana or who probably make decisions based on something that has nothing to do with racing. I wish Jack all the best and hope he reappears very soon.

  18. Just saw Brent Musberger in the 500 booth and I( asked my wife, where’s Jack Arute) came on this site and found out. very sad to see both of these things.

  19. Bring Back Jack! If you miss @JackOnSports on #IndyCar broadcasts, “Like the “Bring Back Jack Facebook page http://tinyurl.com/42mqad6 Pass it on!

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