Friday, July 20, 2007

Andy Petree Shines In Gateway Busch Practice

Dr. Jerry Punch is a broadcast veteran with lots of experience in a wide variety of studio and on-location roles. This season he is the voice of NASCAR on ESPN and ABC Sports. Alongside Punch is veteran driver Rusty Wallace, who worked hard on ESPN's IndyCar Series to fine-tune his TV skills as an analyst.

How ironic is it then that the biggest star so far for the ESPN "booth announcer" trio is the rookie Andy Petree? Without a doubt, Petree has been the surprise of the season when it comes to providing information to the fans with a great attitude and outstanding technical knowledge. ESPN executives must be smiling.

Petree just naturally comes across as credible and easy-going. This is made all the more impressive when he begins to explain the things going on trackside. It always seems that he has been down in the pits and visited each driver and crew member in the entire series.

Earlier this season, after calling an wonderful Busch Series race for ESPN2, The Daly Planet wondered if anyone else felt that Andy gave off the same positive glow about the sport that endeared fans to the late Benny Parsons. Both of these men love to talk personally about the "who" and the "why" behind what is going on. This comes at a time when other networks just "pass through" the sport talking about "who is leading right now."

Petree has worked with both Wallace and Dale Jarrett in the booth, and proved to be a good partner with both. He also has a good and respectful relationship with Jerry Punch, who is clearly taking on the assignment of his TV career. Punch leans on Petree to provide the details that only he knows from his "hands-on" research. BP used to call it "walking around the pits."

At Gateway, the team also relied on Jamie Little and Dave Burns on pit road. Both of these reporters worked hard, and contributed a ton of information to the show. Little has been trying to rebound from some struggles earlier this year, and it shows. She was aggressive and outspoken in her questions to drivers, and covered a lot of ground.

The crew had fun because there were many young future stars of NASCAR on the track, as this is a stand-alone Busch Series race on a classic NASCAR vacation weekend. Wallace and Petree both seemed to be positive cheerleaders for the youth movement in the sport. Punch was able to say "this young man" a whole lot in this practice.

The ESPN graphic package has finally been tweaked to the point where it works. The size, clarity, and speed of the graphic elements added to this show rather than detracting and moving the viewers eyes around the screen in a bad way. With all the new faces in this race, it was a great effort by the entire production team to insert "headshots" of the drivers as much as possible.

The team also dealt well with the subject of Rusty's son being a driver in the Busch Series. Punch and Petree take the lead where Steven Wallace is concerned, and let Rusty pipe in at the end with his "veteran" advice. If the younger Wallace ever gets the hang of this sport, watching him roll into Victory Lane with Rusty in the booth will be a lot of fun.

One week before this team makes its NEXTEL Cup debut at The Brickyard 400, it seems that there is smooth sailing in the broadcast booth and on pit road for ESPN as it heads for the big time. Even in a minor Busch Series practice, Andy Petree went the extra mile to give fans the inside stories and the reasons behind the things happening on the track. All in all, it was a great sign of things to come from this trio.

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 stopping by.


Anonymous said...

"Andy Petree Shines; I just hope he is not bragging!

After FOX's jaws and jaws and then TNT's Weber it don't take much to improve, except for Kyle Petty. I was hoping my mute button could take a rest since the start of the season but Petree can cover just so much. The two experts seem to lose sight of the track events, as did the other coverage teams.

Anonymous said...

Petree is THE MAN! Outstanding crew chief for years and a talented owner who ran out of sponsor $ after Schrader left him. Andy can also drive the wheels off a Craftsman truck!!

Let him talk and shut Rusty up!!!

Anonymous said...

I guess i may be off topic with this posting but....As for the ESPN crew up in the booth, I think Andy Petree is the only one showing any signs of improvement. Yes, he's a bit slow on the trigger as to getting out his words some, but again he tries.

Now for Rusty, 6 months of English classes should help him to speak so we can get what he's saying, but one thing with Rusty, he's fast on saying "we have trouble out on turn whatever" and gets into what and wheres of the crash. If only ESPN camera crews can get it on tape, then all's well, but most times Punch goes to commerical break so the folks in tech truck can go look for the wreck for play back. Doc Punch to me was much better on pit road then up in the booth, he tries too hard to keep up with the race, and likes to wonder off on other subjects.

It will be intersting next week at the Brick Yard, then will see how many pictures and stats, and all their goofy lines and graphics ESPN can get on the tv screen. this while showing live racing. Oh, also the scrolling ticker tape top and bottom of the screen,this is also so helpful as to watching the field.

Might we wished TNT was back with their limited commerical race like at Daytona??

Todd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dr. Jerry Punch started out a bit stiff as the main man in the booth, but by St. Louis he seemed to have become more comfortable in the role.

None of us does our best the first weeks on a new job. I think with time and experience, Dr. Jerry may make a fine booth anchor.

He is showing good progress.

Todd said...

Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree were solid tonight. Rusty Wallace, on the other hand, was not. He needs much improvement. (Almost as much as Bill Weber needed while TNT's covered the NNC Series) It will be interesting to see what happens next week when they have the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup Series to cover.

Tripp said...

Andy IS improving... but comparisions to Benny are not fair at this point. BP logged many years in the broadcast booth learning how to let his knowledge and personality flow over the airwaves. Andy's still new at being in front of the camera, and I know from experience that being natural and articulate on the air when the tumult erupts all around you is no easy feat. It takes work and practice.

It's clear that both Petree and Brewer have been working on it. They were more natural in the Gateway race broadcast, and that should continue as the season evolves.

But there's still something missing in the broadcast booth. Early in the race, Rusty doubted that Edwards had a winning setup because there was a wide gap between the car's front valence and the pavement on the straight. He pointed out the that the car behind Carl was locked down in front. Andy piped in with insightful crew chief perspective, including that PK had to put a setup under Carl that would make him go fast, even if it did look a little odd.

Rusty then wondered aloud which car had the better setup. It would have been wonderful if Tim has said, "the car out front." (Yes, I'm a smart-aleck) Instead he continued with more comments, valuable though they were, but neither Jerry nor Rusty followed up so the topic fizzled without anyone putting a point on it.

This is not a criticism of the information given, but rather another reminder of the "missing element" mentioned previously in this space.

History has established that both information and some level of entertainment needs to come from the booth. NASCAR, more than other sports, has had it for decades with personalities like BP, Buddy and Ned. Fox arguably continues that tradition with their team. They all have personality by the score.

ESPN's team will hopefully learn to expose theirs with experience. They could do worse than spending some time watching Speed's F1 broadcast team for a couple of races to see some of the best work currently being done. They keep the race interesting... no small task in F1... with Matchett's wealth of technical information and Hobbs' remembrances and loopy British humor, and Varsha's ability to keep things focussed on the action.

Perhaps all Jerry, Andy and Rusty need to do is Tivo a Cup race and then call it on a Wednesday night from Andy's couch without the cameras on. Add a couple of adult beverages and it might be an interesting experiment.

Anonymous said...

Have an autographed original of Andy, Richard Childress & Dale Sr hanging in my office. I wish Andy all the best! He is a great person!