With all the hype surrounding this event, one thing became clear for the network. ESPN did the right thing in hiring Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree. Less ethnic than Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip, this duo has become comfortable with both each other, and the ESPN production team. This week in Mexico was their best performance to date.
The enthusiasm of Wallace is well-balanced by the calm persona of Petree and the veteran Jerry Punch. Give lots of credit to Punch for allowing the analysts to speak freely, and interact directly with the pit reporters. This team is beginning to establish a solid reputation, which they must have before they attempt their first NEXTEL Cup event. The big league debut will be here sooner than later.
The importance of a production team that understands racing cannot be emphasized enough, as we have experienced with both TNT and NBC over the last several years. ESPN has benefited from cherry-picking the outstanding personnel from in-house and on the NASCAR TV trail. This showed today with no production glitches and good decision-making in the camera selection.
Even with the field fillers and the designated Hispanic drivers, the racing was fun and different from the normal Busch Series event. Luckily, Juan Montoya is going to be TV story no matter where he goes, and ESPN knows it. This was a solid effort from ESPN that leaves one feeling they are almost ready for a longer NEXTEL Cup effort.