Saturday, September 22, 2007

Brad Daugherty Steps-Up And Makes The Grade

Dr. Jerry Punch and his veteran TV crew did their best to totally avoid the issue. After all, this is the same ESPN2 team that has been telecasting the Busch Series events since February, and this is September. Veteran NASCAR fans, however, knew that something was going to be very different.

Allen Bestwick hosted an abbreviated NASCAR Countdown with Brad Daugherty and then Clint Bowyer as guests. Bestwick was clear in his explanation that Bowyer was a fill-in, and that ESPN appreciated his help. There was a reason that the network needed someone in the Infield Studio for the second half of the show. Brad Daugherty had left the building.

The place he had gone was absolutely historic. While in real life it was only a short golf cart and elevator ride away, for NASCAR's TV legacy it might as well have been a rocketship ride to Mars. Brad Daugherty was heading for the NASCAR tower.

One could only imagine the looks on the faces of the Dover NASCAR fans as a seven foot tall black man in a business suit strolled over to the elevators in the Dover Racetrack Tower.

In a move that may have a much longer-lasting meaning than anyone on Saturday's broadcast acknowledged, Daugherty reached out...and pushed the UP button. At 3:15PM Eastern Time, things in "NASCAR TV land" would never be the same again.

The National Anthem played, the planes flew, and the engines started. Then, without pomp or circumstance, a picture appeared on the screen that had very deep meaning for many ESPN viewers of color. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, and Brad Daugherty were about to call a live NASCAR race on national TV. Take a moment, and read that last sentence again.

While most fans are still working to understand the new role that ESPN has put Daugherty in this year as "the voice of the fans," Daugherty himself has made the most of this opportunity. On this day at Dover, his hard work this season came to fruition. Not only did Daugherty fit in, but he had done his pre-race homework and came on-the-air with all the right information.

Last week, Daugherty had a high-profile difference of opinion with both Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace on the NEXTEL Cup edition of NASCAR Countdown. There was no doubt that both DJ and Rusty were struggling to understand why this former College and NBA All-Star was telling them how things in "NASCAR land" should be. Needless to say, it was good TV and got better when Daugherty stuck to his guns and did not back down.

This week, many viewers thought that the friction between Daugherty and Wallace might come into play once again. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the race progressed, Daugherty used his technique of politely asking questions to draw even more racing knowledge and opinions from Wallace than we normally see on his broadcasts.

One key to this being effective is that ESPN2 laid-off the multi-sport cut-ins, the Infield segments, and almost all the other production elements that have been driving NASCAR fans nuts all season. Tim Brewer in the Tech Center was absolutely quiet. For once this season, fans got to watch a race and nothing else. It was great.

Dover is an action track, and the Busch Series guys were putting on a great show with intense racing and lots of contact. Carl Edwards was running away with the point standings, and at this time of the season there were a lot of drivers in the race with something to prove, and nothing to lose.

For the NASCAR on ESPN production team, it was one of their best races this season. The decision was made to limit the outside elements that have interfered with many races this season, and the result was a focused and pro-active telecast. Once the threesome in the broadcast booth had their dynamics worked out, things flowed like the ESPN broadcasts of old.

ESPN used their graphics effectively, and kept the camera angles wide enough to effectively deal with the "tickers" at both the top and bottom of the screen for the first time this season. The HD pictures and the crisp directing kept the viewers watching many more headlights than tail lights. Staying ahead of the action, capturing the replays from the right angles, and catching all the restarts except one made this telecast outstanding.

Throughout this telecast, the Producer aggressively "front-loaded" the commercial breaks whenever the opportunity presented itself. During every caution period, once the pit stops were done, the commercials hit the air. This race-long effort resulted in the network being able to show the last sixty or so laps commercial free.

What a time for a lot of very diverse elements to come together for ESPN's production team. Good announcing, strong commercial integration, and excellent directing helped to make this a memorable Busch Series telecast in almost every way. The network executives also deserve a pat on the back for allowing the post-race interviews to take place despite the fact that the race ran over into college football game time.

One element of this broadcast clearly remains at the forefront. Regardless of any other issues, Brad Daugherty stepped-up and made the most of this opportunity. What the network will choose to do with Daugherty in the future is still undecided. One thing is certain, diversity has come to the NASCAR broadcast booth, and it arrived with dignity and enthusiasm.

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 and leave your opinion.


stricklinfan82 said...

ESPN did a good job today. There was definitely a lot more energy in the booth with Brad Daugherty added to the mix. He obviously worked very hard preparing for this broadcast, as he had seemingly talked with every driver, owner, and crew chief in the garage area before the race. He even had something intelligent to say about Stanton Barrett's team, which I found very impressive.

It was great to see the last 70 or so laps without commercial interruption and they get two thumbs up for sticking with the race for a handful of post-race interviews before joining the football game in progress. It was also nice to have the race uninterrupted with Sportscenter Minutes, "30 at 30 Updates", Sunday Night Baseball video packages, and Brent Musburger and Suzy Kolber.

It would be nice if tomorrow's Cup race on ABC would be this enjoyable but we know that won't be the case. Things are gonna start bad the second we hear "You are looking live..." and never recover. Bringing in a football announcer to host the race from the pit studio is ridiculous and then adding Brent Musburger as a second host that serves no real purpose is just mind boggling. At least Suzy's role makes sense, our problem with that role is that a credible NASCAR personality doesn't hold that position.

Throw in Sportscenter Minutes, Monday Night Football talk, Sunday Night Baseball preview videos, and a Google Earth shot showing how far Busch Stadium is from Dover and you'll have everything the suits at ESPN deem necessary for a good race broadcast.

Anonymous said...

I have never thought Brad Daugherty added much to the broadcasts, BUT he surprised me my doing a very good job in the booth tonight.

I groaned when the race began and he was in the booth, but soon I had to admit that the guy was pretty good.

He is a bit of a cheerleader but seems to have a genuine excitement for the racing. Maybe the "voice of the fans" needs to be in the booth during the race rather than on the pre-race show or caution "time outs."

I hope they try Brad some more in the booth. He seems to be a better fit there, though I never thought I would say that.

And I was happy to see that ESPN did not include too many Tim Brewer segments or aero visual-graphics demos tonight. Those segments are fine, but ESPN seemed to force them in constantly in prior races. Tonight, they were "just right" and did not once make me scream "Get back to the race!!" as they usually do.

jfs-va said...

Glad to see that JD had the same opinion of Brad's performance as most posters in the in race comments thread.

It was solid and as noted, he increased the excitement level in the booth. He clearly secured a continuing role for himself in the NASCAR broadcast world. Kudos Brad.

Anonymous said...

Brad Daugherty did a great job fitting in upstairs. He is genuinely making me believe he "belongs" and I would like to see him in the boothe more often.

Anonymous said...

Brad was fabulous and I enjoyed listening to him very much. He speaks well, is intelligent, unimposing and is handsome and clean-cut. His tailored apprearance is definitely an addition to the mix.
His more than apparent research of the sport of racing and his own personal experiences make his recollections and opinions meritable.
I will look forward to tuning in whenever Brad is a part of the broadcast mix.
Kudos to the television world for expanding its horizons. One small step can take NASCAR in a very positive direction toward the future.

w17scott said...

Mr. Editor -
Your comments are 'on point' ...Brad did his homework and acquitted himself well with insightful questions directed to Rusty that brought out great comments only an experienced racer would know ...kudos on the production ...if I didn't fall out of my chair when Jerry said "we'll bring you the final laps (62?) without commercial interruption, then I did hit the floor with the post-race coverage ...and I didn't have to change channels - the football fans did ...enjoyed the show ...well done

Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding "me too",I felt like this was first time this season that ESPN got it all right. The presentation seemed like a streamlined version of its former self, devoid of irritating distractions.

I liked AB's pre race show and have come to appreciate Bowyer's personality.

Brad's addition to the booth was a good move. He added a fresh element to the broadcast that did not appear predetermined or scripted. His contributions lead to conversations that brought out the best in the others.

My personal thought is that while ESPN may have had diversity in mind when Brad was hired, he has demonstrated that he deserves to be there based on merit. His opinions are based on an appreciation of the sport and a knowledge base that has surprised many of us.

It seems ironic to me that on a day when ESPN could have had a shipwreck with scheduling conflicts, they managed to provide us with a really good broadcast.

SophiaZ123 said...

I already commented how PLEASANTLY surprised I was by Brad and how well he fit into the booth.

It's like I WATCHED A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT NETWORK with camera man and behind the scenes work that KNEW what they were doing?

Be nice if this could be like this every week for both races.

I second all the good things others said.

Anonymous said...

"One small step can take NASCAR in a very positive direction toward the future."
September 23, 2007 10:08 AM

What "very positive direction" are you refering to?

Anonymous said...

YEah, I'd like to know what this means, too.

Matt said...

I wonder if ESPN is grooming Brad to be a full-time Busch analyst next year? It would certainly be a great idea as he added more energy to that broadcast than we have seen from the 3 talking heads combined in any ESPN race this year.

Richard in N.C. said...

Brad D. might not be as good as many alternatives, but I am convinced he is genuinely interested in racing, and in doing his best - unlike several people at ESPN, especially in management. As I recall, at UNC and/or the NBA Brad wore 43 because he was a Richard Petty fan.

Anonymous said...

I've been a lifelong Earnhardt fan. Even have the 3 on my car.

Can I also be an on-air analyst for ABC's NASCAR coverage if I try hard?

That's seems to be the rationale for allow Brad to do the job--so why I can't I do it, too?

Desmond said...

To respond to Richard: Brad Daugherty wore #43 with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers in honor of Richard Petty. At college (North Carolina), he was #42 because he lost a coin flip to a teammate who coach Dean Smith also recruited to come to UNC in the same year.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like Brad in the booth ... I haven't liked him all season ... His constant questions make him sound dumb as opposed to the former team owner that he was ... He comes off more like a 5yo pulling on mommy's clothes at the grocery store & wanting candy ...

Brad in the booth still smacks of Brian France's "Drive for Diversity" schtick ... Throw in Suzy Kolber in the sideshow booth and Jamie Little/Shannon Spake on pit road ... Robert Iger as well as the head of ABC/ESPN Sports look like opportunists shoving these uneducated people down our throats ...

I bet KING-5 tv in Seattle still has that embarrassing footage of Shannon Spake from 2005 when she was in Enumclaw, WA for "Kasey Kahne Day" and all she could do was drool over Kasey & act like a teenybopper when interviewed by the KING-5 reporter ...

I like Dr Punch & Rusty & Petree ... Though, I think putting Allen Bestwick up in the booth & Dr Punch on pit road might be a good change ... Plus, with all of the pit road incidents lately with the crew members getting hit by one thing or another, having a doctor on pit road would be a definitely GOOD thing ...

Where's Bill Lester?? I haven't seen him at the track for awhile ... Try him in the booth ... IF the network/NASCAR thinks they need a minority to be a commentator for the races ... He's a driver and very well-spoken and knows the sport ...