Saturday, April 14, 2007

ESPN: DJ's Debut A Hit In Texas

After a tough start, ESPN finally was able to roll-out their newest acquisition in the person of Dale Jarrett during the Busch Series race in Texas. Live women's tennis again affected the on-air time of the telecast, eliminating the pre-race show. Like the old days of NASCAR on ESPN, the telecast started, the race was run, and then it was over. With Erik Kuselias set to host the pre-race show and the telecast, perhaps this was a blessing.

Marty Reid continued his vacation relief duties for Dr. Jerry Punch and again showed why he is one of the top professionals in the field. Marty is great at letting the other members of the broadcast team supply the details and expertise, while he calmly directs traffic and calls the action. His Midwestern roots allow him to get out-of-the-way without any hesitation. Almost like a good referee, he never affects the outcome of the telecast and lets the "players" play.

When Dale Jarrett first announced his ESPN deal, it seemed strange due to the fact that Rusty Wallace had been working as ESPN's lead color analyst. Since then, ESPN has explained that both DJ and Rusty will share the assignments as ESPN spreads its wings into the NEXTEL Cup Series later this year.

Jarrett meshed so well into the broadcast team that it was seamless. Having Marty Reid alongside was a great boost, and Andy Petree again put in a strong performance that revealed his unmatched behind-the-scenes information. When the veteran pit road reporters were added into the mix, ESPN really uncorked a winner.

Having someone like Jarrett who is actively racing in NASCAR brings to the telecast the one thing that Rusty does not. Especially on the Busch Series telecasts, the perspective of someone who has driven at speed on the track that same day is unmatched. DJ dived right in and showed he had the verbal skills to hang-in on a multi-hour telecast without any loss of focus.

Perhaps, the real story of the season is Andy Petree. He has consistently dealt with a changing cast of announcers and pit reporters as the season has progressed. His information and connection to the teams and crew chiefs is amazing. As mentioned before by The Daly Planet, he seems to have taken-on some of the positive attributes of our late friend Benny Parsons. Petree works hard to make this sport a family, and he does it with sincerity and enthusiasm. What a find by ESPN.

A tip of the hat to Mark Martin for not mentioning the incredible fake "controversy" that Erik Kuselias and ESPN's NASCAR Now manufactured about his part-time schedule. Mark was back, happy, and served as ESPN's in-car "reporter" during the event. This feature has become a strong part of the network's race coverage, and I understand it might be expanded when the NEXTEL Cup Series appears on the network.

Heavy thunderstorms and tornadoes plagued the area on Friday, so kudos to the technical crews from ESPN, NASCAR Images, and NEP Productions for delivering a flawless telecast less than twenty-four hours after these problems.

ESPN Busch Series: NASCAR Countdown

For the second time, a key Busch Series pre-race show has been cancelled due to a live women's tennis event. This Busch Series race is the only NASCAR event that ESPN had this weekend. It has been promoted since Monday throughout the ESPN family of networks. ESPN chose not to change channels and air NASCAR Countdown on ESPN News, ESPN Classic, or interrupt billiards on ESPN. One Daly Planet reader suggested that NASCAR Countdown could have been "broadcast" on ESPN 360. For a major communications corporation with multiple television and internet outlets, how can NASCAR again draw the short straw? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this show, and the continuing problems with ESPN's featured NASCAR series. The COMMENTS link is below.