Saturday, June 2, 2007

Punch And Company A Little Off Their Game

There is no doubt that Jerry Punch is one of the most sincere and hardest-working TV racing personalities in the business. I had the pleasure of working with Jerry at ESPN, and he was a reliable and honest guy, approachable and very fan friendly. Over the years, we have seen Jerry in a wide variety of roles.

Most older fans remember Jerry as the key pit reporter in ESPN's early NASCAR days. As a medical doctor with a love for racing, the fans understood that Punch had worked his way up from a public address announcer at a local Carolina track to the big time. After NASCAR departed, Punch chose to stay with ESPN and began to carve a name for himself as a well-spoken sideline reporter for college football telecasts.

This season, Jerry has shared play-by-play duties for the Busch Series telecasts on both ESPN2 and ABC Sports. Marty Reid has appeared when Jerry was on vacation, and worked well with the NASCAR team of announcers. In Dover, Punch returned to Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the booth with mixed results.

The booth announcing team did not appear in the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show to discuss any aspects of the upcoming Busch race. They were present and called the live Busch Series qualifying, but should have at least appeared on tape with an on-camera preview of the race.

ESPN has been working hard on its technical aspects, and the live reports from both the driver and his crew chief throughout the race are a good look inside the minds of actual participants. Having DJ speak with the driver, and Petree speak with the crew chief was a great touch to keeping things in the right perspective. This has been an outstanding feature of these telecasts.

The concept of turning on all the in-car communications during a re-start is not growing on NASCAR fans. This chatter is available online, through NEXTEL, and can even appear on your cell phone. There are too many voices, and somehow limiting the number of channels would provide a much clearer picture of re-starts. In races like Dover, you can only hear "green flag green flag green flag" so many times.

The HD in-car cameras are of great technical quality, but ESPN is struggling to determine a philosophy of use. In this race, the in-car shot often lost the race perspective for the viewer, and even eliminated good racing action. In-cars are best used in a definitive two car battle, even if the angle is from the car behind, such as Jeff Burton in this Dover event. In case of accidents, in-cars should only be used as replay cams. This was evident several times as ESPN missed incidents.

It seemed that while Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were into the race, they had trouble meshing with Jerry Punch for some reason. Punch seemed to be very intense, and often times was not very happy, and struggled for words. We have discussed that the play-by-play role for Punch is a work in progress, but sometimes it seems that he might be better suited for a reporting job. Jerry likes detail, and the play-by-play role just generates excitement and directs traffic.

Often, the production staff would cut-a-way from a pack of car racing and return to the leader only to have an incident occur. It often occurred in the pack they just left. Its great when someone is leading, and someone else is two car lengths behind. We just don't need to see it while there is pack racing going on. The accident at the end of the race told the tale. It was never explained, and never followed-up before the telecast left the air. This was a rookie mistake that should not be repeated.

Let's hope that ESPN incorporates the booth announcers into NASCAR Countdown, NASCAR Now, and SportsCenter for the rest of the season. As the network approaches their NEXTEL Cup debut, they are going to need their "faces of NASCAR" on-camera and on-the-air as much as possible. An on-camera "wrap" of the Busch race on the one hour Monday NASCAR Now should be mandatory.

With the technical aspects, the pit reporters, and the booth analysts in place, ESPN has only to confirm the play-by-play position before their NEXTEL Cup debut. While the administration says they already have a schedule, both Jerry Punch and Marty Reid are hoping that their name is on it when it reads "NEXTEL Cup on ABC Sports."

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.


Anonymous said...

I'm willing to give Dr. Punch some time to come into the role. Other announcers have been a little uncomfortable when they began and then came on to do fine. I think his background and knowledge will allow him to settle in and do well down the road.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Punch does need some time to gel with his announce team (depending on who it is each week), but let's not forget Dr. Punch has experience doing NASCAR play by play. he and phil parsons were the truck series team back when ESPN used to barely show the start of the race and race off the air after the checkered flag. sometimes without even doing a winner interview.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Punch may be a nice guy and all, but I think he's wrong for the lead announcing role. They should have hired Allen Bestwick. I watched a race the other day where twice when they went to commercial, Punch commented in a ho-hum fashion, "Kurt Busch has led the most laps," without even mentioning Busch had crashed out of the race.

Andy Petree completely grates on my nerves. I'm a southerner, and I have a southern accent, but this guy sounds like a hillbilly. The southern accents of Daryl Waltrip and even Larry McReynolds are tolerable, but Petree's is not. He's dragging the sport back to the Nashville Network days with his presence in the booth.

The whole thing with the restarts and the team communications is a stupid gimmick.

I am not looking forward to the latter half of the season when ABC/ESPN takes over the NEXTEL Cup broadcasts. Looks like I'll be listening to Barney Hall or Doug Rice.

Anonymous said...


Jerry should be the lead pit reporter, Bestwick should be in the booth and Bob Jenkins should be at the desk

Jeff Marcosky said...

The problem is Dale Jarrett, just count the times this man uses "uhm" and "Ah" to bridge a sentence. He is not Ned and never will be. I have no idea where Rusty is or if he will return. He could be trying to keep his son from wrecking every car that RWI has . If Dr Punch has the same people every week they will mesh well.

Anonymous said...

ESPN brought us race coverage when no one else would. Give them time.
Plus, I will take ESPN over FOX any day!

Anonymous said...

I think this article hit the nail right on the head as far as the camera work. ESPN needs to remember that we are trying to see what is happening on the track and the WIDE ANGLE camera let's us see what is happening. All these other cameras are very, very hard to follow a race with.

All you have to do is look at lap 22 of the Busch race when we START to see Jeff Burton go 3-wide for the lead and the next thing we know we are looking through a bumper cam at nothing but asphalt.

Then you have the Mike Wallace wreck. I see that my driver, Harvick, is right behind the accident and I am wondering if he is going to get cuaght up in the wreck or not. Next thing I know... we are back to bumper cam and not only can I not see if KH was in the wreck or not but I also miss David Ragan and the #90 car wreck. ESPN's camera work on the accident is exactly what you SHOULD NOT DO. Use the bumper cam/in car for REPLAYS!

Please go back and watch coverage of your old races!

Vince said...

Hey everybody,

I have to say I agree Dr. Jerry Punch is not the right guy for the lead announcer job. I think he's trying too hard and to me his delivery sometimes comes across as forced. I had a chance to meet Dr. Jerry on a flight from Greensboro, NC to Charlotte back in the late 80's. He was very nice and took time to speak to those seated around him and answer their questions. I've always liked him best as the lead pit reporter. He did an outstanding job with that. I'd like to see Allen Bestwick as the lead announcer. To me he is the best that ESPN has available for that job. Very professional, knows his NASCAR and knows when to get out of the way and let the other guys in the booth have their say.

I think Andy Petree is a definate plus over the crew chief's that Fox uses in their broadcasts. I'm not a Larry Mac fan and Jeff Hammond is just plain embarrassing.

I enjoy DJ in the booth and think he has a future there. I'm not a fan of Rusty's work in the booth so far. He is too out spoken and does not mesh well with his other commentators. Plus his command of the English language is suspect. The guy needs to do what Ned and Dale did. Go take a Dale Carnegie course.

I like many of you hope ESPN can get it together for their portion of the Cup broadcasts. I remember how good they were with Bob Jenkins, Ned and Benny back in the day. Please ESPN don't try to emulate Fox's pathetic coverage. We want to see the action and not the so called NASCAR personalities. To us racing is a sport. Not something you have to hype up with all your talking heads.

Thanks again John for your good work. Love your blog and thanks for giving us fans a chance to vent.

Anonymous said...

I hate sound like an "old school" Nascar fan, but I'll take Jerry Punch and company any day over what fox has put us through over the last several years. I think there are times when ol' DW and Jeff Hammond should "get a room". Enough is enough. I really think that ESPN has the potential to bring some class back to NASCAR coverage. Fox has tried too hard to make it's NASCAR coverage look exactly like its football coverage. Let's not forget that it wasn't Fox that made NASCAR grow in popularity. It was the boom of the 1990's that made them want to get involved, and it was ESPN who was covering those races. I look forward to the first race of the season where I don't have to hear anybody say "reach up and pull those belts tight one more time" and of course the phrase that follows that. I can't bring myself to type it.

Steve said...

It's bad enough we have to put up with announcers that don't know a thing about NASCAR but we're also getting the worst TV coverage I've ever seen.
I spend most of the race screaming at the television! "Oh, come on, three wide going into turn three and you switch the camera to the leader out there all by himself for five or six laps!!" My wife comes in the den 4 or 5 times per race asking 'what's wrong?' because I get so upset with such sub-par TV production.
Somewhere at the track, in a little mobile trailer, there's people sitting in front of a bunch of little tv sets and one of them is calling out the camera shot to put on the air. That one person is responsible for what we viewers see on our tv sets. Maybe they should give someone else a turn at that job. Maybe even someone that enjoys and knows racing. Heck, let me have a turn, I think I could do better.
And for goodness sakes get rid of that 'full throttle' crap. I really don't understand why they think that's what us viewers want to hear. They keep trying to attract new viewers and new race fans, but they better start worring about loosing the fans they have.

Anonymous said...

Can we create a petition?

Hopefully those ESPN guys are reading this...they know about Jayski, don't they?

I know Bestwick got fired from the booth for his hockey accident (he broke his leg and had to miss a few races), but my God! They replaced him with Bombastic Bill Weber, who's twice as bad as Dr. Punch...

Bottom line, ESPN/ABC producers, if you're reading, Bring Allen Back! He's way better than Jerry or Bill! WAY, WAY, better.

Petition, anyone?

Stephen Gurr
Gainesville, Ga.

SophiaZ123 said...

THANK YOU JOHN for providing an outlet for our gripes. I CHECK your column everyday!

Oh, my..Punch is ok..I am busy being HONKED OFF over the DREADFUL CAMERA WORK (yes, show more WIDE ANGLES and STOP FOCUSING on bumper cams) and SHOW THE SPIN OUTS and crashes. Also, how about some replays of accidents missed?

Full Throttle crap!?&^%$#@! There is NOT ENOUGH room for me to complain about that INSIPID NONSENSE. That was annoying the first time and now WTH??? I would rather turn up the volume to HEAR THE ENGINES OF THE CARS. ESPN STOP that crap.

I think the following needs to happen and happen QUICK.


2. Get a different guy to DIRECT THE CAMERAS so we can see who is racing and ACROSS THE FINISH LINES the ENTIRE pack.

Otherwise, I will be sitting in the house with a transistor trying to get in some distant MRN station to listen to instead of WATCHING and getting so damned irritated.

I NEVER EVER used to scream at my TV but I do NOW with ESPN's PATHETIC coverage.

Can they be fired? NASCAR should SERIOUSLY CONSIDER IT.

Bring back Bestwick and get rid of ALL THE ESPN WOMEN. THEY STINK!!!!!!

I never thought I WOULD HATE to see Fox leave their part of the season but the thoughts of ****** camera work and the vomit inducing "Let's go FUll Throttle" makes me livid.

DW's Boogity, Boogity, Boogity sounds like a prayer in comparison to the FULL THROTTLE rubbish. And they do it most every fricking restart.