Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Brent Musburger Will Host "The Brickyard 400" On ESPN
The production executives in Bristol, CT made it official today with the announcement of the on-air line-up for ESPN's coverage of the Brickyard 400 weekend. The cable sports network is returning to NASCAR's top series for the first time since 2000.
In a role that he made very memorable for NASCAR fans at Daytona in February, Brent Musburger returns as the "telecast host." It is the same role he plays for the Indy 500, which puts him alone in a designated "host" position to provide transitions between telecast elements. Basically, it allows him to "oversee" both the infield and announce booth teams.
ESPN's Busch Series team graduates to the big time in less than two weeks as Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Andy Petree will call the race from the booth. This is no surprise, as ESPN has been fine-tuning this group since February on the Busch circuit. As a total newcomer, Andy Petree has been the stand-out in this crowd.
Patrolling pit road will be a rather unique mix of talent. NASCAR favorites and grizzled veterans Mike Massaro and Allen Bestwick bring to the table a ton of credibility and racing knowledge for the network. Newcomer Jamie Little has been polished and professional, but has had a bit of a tough time with follow-up questions in live interviews. Finally, the eclectic Dave Burns has earned himself a spot in the big leagues again with his ability to poke fun at himself while still giving fans the information they desire.
When push came to shove, ESPN hung tough and kept their earlier word that Suzy Kolber and Brad Daugherty will man the Infield Studio for the weekend. In Chicago, the professional Kolber found Daugherty to be not exactly the "expert" at answering her many questions. For the Brickyard, look for ESPN to move either Wallace or Petree down to the Infield Studio to provide that extra punch for NASCAR Countdown.
Finally, former crew chief Tim Brewer made the cut and is going to be the king of the cut-a-way car and "tech center" for the network. Brewer is a work in progress, and fans either love or hate his unique style. He is plain spoken, and seems to be a bit trapped in the tightly structured world of ESPN. Maybe, dealing with NEXTEL Cup issues at last will allow him to break through and become the "Jeff Hammond" of ESPN.
The network has moved qualifying and happy hour coverage to ESPN2, which seems to defeat somewhat the importance of their return to NASCAR. ESPN has the final seventeen NEXTEL Cup races, with the entire "Chase" being telecast on the ABC broadcast network by ESPN's production team.
ESPN2 will also carry the Busch Series race from O'Reilly Raceway Park on Saturday night. Marty Reid and Randy LaJoie will be in the booth, with Vince Welch, Shannon Spake, and Jack Arute on pit road. This is a tough weekend, with two racetracks in the same town, and practice and qualifying both affected by weather, as we have seen in the past.
As the clock continues to tick, ESPN has officially put out their starting line-ups and set their telecast times. All that is left to do is enjoy the NEXTEL Cup off-week, and hope that ESPN's return to NASCAR's biggest series will invoke memories of the network's past glories, and not continue memories of the last six races on TNT.
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