Saturday, January 12, 2008

ESPN Mum On Jarrett's Role In 2008

Back in April of 2007, Dale Jarrett officially joined the NASCAR on ESPN announce team as a "part-timer." The network press release said that Jarrett would appear on ten Busch Series race broadcasts for ESPN2. As we all know, things changed drastically from that original plan.

As both Rusty Wallace and Dr. Jerry Punch struggled with their new roles, DJ was often a frequent guest on the ESPN and ABC races. Alongside Suzy Kolber and Brad Daugherty, Jarrett used his personality and his Dale Carnegie training to quietly cement himself a place in each telecast.

Often, as the race progressed, the members of the broadcast team would begin asking questions directly to Jarrett, even though he was sitting in the Infield Studio as a "guest." The entire direction of the telecast shifted when Jarrett was present.

Unfortunately, this left the flaws of the TV crew exposed for all to see when suddenly they were left without Jarrett's presence. Momentum in TV usually goes in only one direction, and it was very clear by season's end that the wheels had come off the ESPN NASCAR train.

Now, we turn our attention to the 2008 ESPN2 line-up of Nationwide races that begin in February. Several weeks ago ESPN put out a press release about their plans for the upcoming season. It was the subject of a Daly Planet column, which can be read by clicking here.

It was well written, clear and very concise. It contained the story of their continuing commitment to the series, and that once again each race would be live and in High Definition. What it did not say is who would be announcing...any of it.

Over at the news stories talk about new crew chiefs and testing schedules as if 2008 will be a full season of racing. There is not a word about Jarrett's potential break-out year as a TV commentator for ESPN and ABC.

Last May, former ESPN broadcaster Ned Jarrett joined his son as an analyst in the ESPN2 booth for the Busch Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. From the start, the senior Jarrett did not miss a beat. It was clear he was prepared and had done his homework for this one single Busch Series assignment.

He did not mispronounce a driver name and remained excited about the racing action from the green flag through the last lap. Ned Jarrett is 75 years old.

This season, there is growing pressure to heighten the presence of the younger Jarrett on the ESPN and ABC races. No one is questioning Rusty Wallace's dedication, but often success or failure on TV is a direct result of a color analyst's own personality. It either works, or it does not. Rusty's intensity sometimes got him in hot water with the teams and the fans.

Wallace also suffered from being the "face" of the ESPN technology like Draft Track. Forced into races and into situations where it did not fit, Rusty was on the hook for information that sometimes seemed to be slightly less than credible.

We expect ESPN to announce their on-air line-ups this week for the Nationwide Series races. Since they do not return to the Sprint Cup events until months down the road, the choice of who will participate in the final seventeen high-profile events might be delayed. For right now, fans only want to know what personnel the network will roll-out at Daytona to greet the new Nationwide season.

These choices will either go a long way toward re-establishing ESPN's credibility, or continue their apparent problems in dealing with NASCAR as a major professional sport. Thursday, February 14th at 9:30AM Eastern Time the Nationwide Series takes to the track for Daytona practice on ESPN2.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. We do not require your email address and there is nothing to join. We just want your opinion.


Richard in N.C. said...

JD- In my opinion one word describes Ned and DJ - CLASS. I really expect DJ does feel his 1st priority is to UPS and that he is not ready to publicly commit to what he is going to do until he sees how the first 5 or 6 races of the Cup season go. Now that Penske has shifted the points from the 2 car to Sam Hornish, it is my understanding that DJ is no longer virtually guaranteed a spot in the first 5 races as had been planned since Kurt Busch would be entitled to the past champion's provisional before DJ.

Lisa Hogan said...

I, too, found their announcement very interesting. ESPN seemed to want to list their toys instead of the people. Wait a minute, isn't having focus on their toys how they got themselves into this mess to start with????? :)

stricklinfan82 said...

Bottom line - ESPN always does the opposite of what the NASCAR fans want. It seems to me that a majority of posters here have favored putting DJ in the booth full-time in 2008, so ESPN will probably respond by either doing nothing with DJ, or by sticking him in the Pit Studio to speak for no more than 30 seconds every hour.

Most networks respond to their viewers by listening to them and using their constructive criticisms to make their product better. ESPN sticks its nose up at the thought that a NASCAR fan knows better than they do and seems to be intent on making us even more miserable by giving us more and more of what we don't want.

I've said it all winter, I think the reason we haven't heard about any changes at ESPN is because they aren't making any. Erik Kuselias and Ryan Burr will still be hosting NASCAR Now, Brent Musburger, Chris Fowler, or Suzy Kolber will be hosting the Nationwide broadcast at Daytona, Allen Bestwick and Dale Jarrett will continue to be grossly underused, ESPN will continue to ignore the on-track action to show us draft tracks, other sports promos, race recaps, and video packages, and once the ESPN Cup schedule starts we will again have no TV coverage of morning practice sessions and tape-delayed or joined-in-progress coverage of Happy Hour.

I hope I'm wrong but ESPN hasn't given me reason to expect anything other than the worst in 2008.

SophiaZ123 said...

I enjoy DJ as well as his father Ned on the OLD CLASSIC reruns I used to watch.

But J.D., I saw Ned on a race this year that was at NIGHT and he did NOT stay on the air to the last lap. He said he went to bed early these days :-) and excused himself EARLY from the race. I clearly remember him leaving the booth early that night.

Am I the only one who remembers this or did he sit in on another race?

I only mention this because it was impossible for him to sound 'excited' until the end of green flag racing.

But I do remember him being nice in the booth and A CLASS ACT!!

Something that is sadly lost on ESPN with KEEPING Rusty in the booth. :(

Daly Planet Editor said...


Not so sure that was exactly the point of the column, but thank you for pointing that out. I hope you caught the bigger issue that DJ is a lot like his father...


SophiaZ123 said...

Sorry, JD...I realize I should've edited that part out or sent you a note directly.

The reason I pointed it out was because it was VERY DISAPPOINTING to see the Pro leave so early. He and his son were a delight in the booth. I could not believe he didn't stay the whole night but realized he may have been tired..but it was such a great BLAST from the past as they say...message boards were full of comments enjoying he and DJ in the booth.

But as we all know, ESPN does not CARE what we want..or which commentator TRULY LOVES the racing and not the ego trip of being in the booth.

I am still shocked the same crew is going to be IN THE BOOTH. I mean if Ned's brief appearance didn't make folks long for the old days..and then to SIT thru the summer of the dreck other guys and TOO MANY VOICES?!...Then again, as others have pointed out, nothing should surprise us.

NASCAR is not interested in a better ON TV product nor is ESPN.

Plain and simple.

Sorry again, disrespect was intended.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- When I listen to the Braves and other MLB broadcasts my recollection is that almost always there is disclosure that the announcers are approved by the team. Would it be reasonable to assume that NASCAR has final, or at least some, right of approval of at least the primary announcers? If so, could the delay in announcing the announcers for 2008 indicate that ESPN and NASCAR are having difficulty agreeing? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I expect Nicole Manske to play a much bigger role on daily NASCAR TV this year.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Sophia, no problem at all!

Richard, it will be interesting to see how the network reacts to the situation they encountered at the end of the season. Right now all they have to worry about is the Nationwide Series and NASCAR Now.

Anon, SPEED is doing almost daily shows beginning this Monday, and she is only listed as continuing her activities on the SPEED Report. If you know more than that, drop me a line!


Daly Planet Editor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Benny. He was always prepared. He always had the right answer or admitted when he didn't and would pass it along when he got it. He was calm for the most part. Sometimes he would get excited, but would always go back to his calm matter of fact way of calling the race. I see this in Dale. Factual, calm,listenable. Knowledgeable. Confident. We are all drawn to confident people. When they say something we know that they know what they are talking about.
ESPN needs Dale like a newborn baby needs it's mama. And Dale Earnhardt liked him so that ought to be all that needs to be said

bevo said...

Please, please, please... DJ and AB with Petree this season.


chase said...

Boy,did Bevo hit the nail on the head in one fell swoop. AB, DJ and Petree - DJ is and always has been a class act and he knows his stuff. But it does make one wonder if the powers that be at ESPN ever really read your column. Frankly, if ESPN does NOT use the talent that is out there and fix their mistakes of 2007, then we're all in for a real bumpy ride. Kolber,Daugherty, Rusty 'Whiner', Punch and that old chestnut, Brent Musberger MUST GO. Time to use the pros if ESPN wishes to keep their viewers. We're all way too savy to continue to watch such incoherent coverage - so let's hope that everyone's postings so far today are read and acted upon! Thanks JD -- please don't ever leave us.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Great post about Benny. I certainly can see that comparison and hope that 2008 gives DJ a chance to help restore ESPN to its former glory.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Not only do they read it, they read all the comments as well...every single day!

ps - then they email me and yell a lot!

Lisa Hogan said...

"ps - then they email me and yell a lot!"

Now, that is funny! Amazing! They must not have heard the saying, "don't shoot the messenger"!

Bill B said...

One question I have is "Who did Alan Bestwick piss off along the way?"
I have yet to see one fan that doesn't think he is one of the best out there. Yet it seems every network eventually filters him out of the main broadcast crew (as well as the INC show).
What is it that the networks see that we don't? Is it that they consider him a loose cannon and they can't control him? I am very curious because there has got to be a reason. My guess is that whatever trait has mades him a fan favorite is the same thing that makes the establishment keep him down.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line - ESPN always does the opposite of what the NASCAR fans want.

Always a solid audience-building tactic.

Between this blog and the various boards, I am 100% certain ESPN knows how NASCAR fans feel about what they've done and are planning to do.

Their response has essentially been to say, "Too bad. Deal with it."

I have never seen another business with so much hubris that they'll ignore what such an overwhelming number of its customers say.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame if ESPN doesn't use DJ in some quality way. He'd be great!

But you know, all of us - myself included - have been bashing ESPN non-stop and in my opinion they aren't the only ones who need "fixing". I've never been a fan of the FOX broadcast team - wit the exception of Mike Joy (what's not to love there?) and I think they could use some work too. First DW is just plain annoying. He loves to hear himself talk and thinks the BBB "yell" is cute! I HATE it! Plus he's almost as bad as his brother in mentioning sponsors. Never heard someome mention Toyota so much - when it wasn't warrented. Larry Mac just needs to take the volume down a few notches. I like that he gets excited about what he's watching/calling, but he just yells too loud and many time talks over his co-broadcasters. He's there for color and analysis and needs to leave the "announcing" to Mike. His grammar could use some work too, but that is part of his charm. Neverthless, it's got to be embarrassing for him.

The guys in the Hollywood Hotel have just got to go - period. Chris Meyers had no business in NASCAR announcing. He's the equivalent of Brent Musberger. Just doesn't belong at all. And if he says "I kid because I care" one more time, I might detroy my TV. It just grates on my last nerve. Jeff Hammond is no better. I don't think his role - outside of cutaway car duties - is even needed. We don't need two former crew chiefs! And he is ALWAYS saying " far as (blank) is concerned...." He must say that 50 times if he says it once! It doesn't matter what he's commenting on, but somehow that line gets tagged on to the end - and sometimes the beginning - of he's saying. Please Jeff - STOP saying that. (Another potential TV destroyed).

So that's what I have waiting for me at the Daytona races. Sponsor mentions, yelling, an outsider and one professional....."as far as my opinion is concerned"

Anonymous said...

Based on who's available, the best combo they could put in the booth would be DJ, Bestwick, and Petree. Put Jerry Punch back on pit road where he did a fantastic job for years. Move Rusty over to Brad's position so we don't have to hear from him as much. At least Rusty does have more experience than Brad and does have more of an edge in knowledge. Just keep him from cheerleading.

While it was great seeing Ned back in the booth, I can understand why Ned turns in early. He's in his 70's and has had some health issues in the not to distant past. They take longer to get over when you're not exactly a spring chicken. Still, any time they can get Ned in the booth is a blessing.

The one Jarrett folks seem to overlook is Glenn. Glenn's been doing the radio side of the race broadcast for quite a while with the occasional TV job as a pit reporter and would make a great addition to the TV side.

But as we all know, ESPN is going to do what Brian France thinks is best, not what is actually best for the fans. After all, Brian France did say he knows what's best for the sport. Don't chuckle too hard.

Delenn said...

Bevo and Chase have the correct answer for ESPN - AB, DJ and Petree in the booth. It's so obvious.

Erik Klueless, the Voice of the Fans, Suzy and Brent all need to get no closer to a Nascar track than the distance between Fontana and the LA Coliseum. (The Staples Center is further away - right?).

Stick to Doc and Rusty on the pre-race, Massaro, Burns plus two (Yocum?? Snider??) in the pits. Have Shannon covering the infield care center and roving brief permanently.

Fox. Mike Joy makes up for almost anything that Fox do. However, a little less Myers and a little more Joy would not go amiss. Hammond should do a more roving role too - put that crew chief knowledge to good use during cautions etc.

TNT. Have they considered paying Fox or MRN for commentary? Or me? Or anyone else on the planet? Boy did they miss BP. Only bright light - Larry Mac. Hold on, he's a fox guy. Now there's an idea.....

Finally, amidst all the telecast bashing, I just wanted to add a comment about some good stuff. Angelique Chengelis and Marty Smith have both been excellent this year. Shannon finished the year as a great reporter. I turned into a Stacy Compton lover, as he fought against the banal drivel NN served up.

I just wished I could see John Roberts, Wendy Venturini and Krista Voda in full Speed channel flow. Come on Speed, learn how to do online streaming.

playingtime said...

delenn said:

I just wished I could see John Roberts, Wendy Venturini and Krista Voda in full Speed channel flow.

That reminds me of John Robert's story. John was a football guy with absolutely no prior knowledge of NASCAR at all when FOX obtained the broadcasting rights in, when, 2001? In seven short years, with help from Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace, and others in the FOX/Speed compound, John Roberts has transformed himself into a very proficient, knowledgable host for us NASCAR fans and has shamed every stick-n-ball face in the business in the process. If every newbie in NASCAR broadcasting had focused his or her efforts on their business as John Roberts has, we wouldn't be having these forum discussions, would we. I look at John Robert's performances these last few years as he has progressed in the business and I see a man who cares about what he does and what others think of his efforts to do the best job he can do every time out.
However, this last year has also given me opportunity to view the efforts of similarly situated NASCAR broadcasting newbies. Having observed and analyzed my observations, I can hold John Roberts up as a very good example of what a stick-n-ball broadcaster could do if he or she cared.
That's the key word here-CARE. As I reflect upon the recent broadcasts of ABC/Disney/ESPN and Turner, I can and do conclude there is no care in Bristol, CT or Atlanta and I challenge others to refute this conclusion.

Newracefan said...

I'm crossing my fingers, toes and anything else I can find that ESPN is waiting to make the big announcement that its DJ, AB, and Andy in the booth after DJ's last cup race.

Anonymous said...

I love Mr. Ned! He definitely is still sharp as a tack!

I do hope that DJ will go broadcasting FT. Add me to the PLEASE for the love of bizkits & gravy use Allen to his fullest potential! He could run EVERY POSITION from hosting NA$CAR Now, to Qualifying, to the Infield Studio to the Booth by himself! He knows WHAT he's doing and he's a fan favorite!

I also love Mr. Petree :)