Wednesday, February 13, 2008
ESPN Daytona Press Conference Reveals Changes
Wednesday morning, ESPN held a press conference in the Infield Media Center of the Daytona International Speedway. Several items were discussed, some good questions were asked and one big announcement was made.
First, the announcement was that Ray Evernham will be joining the NASCAR on ESPN team for the entire 2008 season in a variety of roles. Evernham was a frequent guest in the Infield Studio in 2007, and he seemed to work well with the ESPN crew.
NASCAR Now will feature Evernham on their Monday roundtable segments, and he will also appear on other days to add opinion and commentary to that series. Up in the announce booth, Evernham will be the Lead Analyst for the Nationwide races from Mexico City and Loudon, NH.
Finally, Evernham will appear during the pre-race NASCAR Countdown show for selected Nationwide races, including the upcoming event from Daytona. While that ends his racing obligations, ESPN has said that Evernham will appear on ESPNEWS and on SportsCenter as needed during the season beginning with Daytona.
In this press conference, Rich Feinberg from ESPN once again stated that he was proud of the network's NASCAR efforts last season and that this year was going to see some changes.
"Draft Track" is being revised, or as Feinberg says "updated." It will be seen at less races, but when it is used their will be more applicable information available. It will be interesting to see what new Lead Analyst Dale Jarrett makes of that gizmo.
Commercial rotation and load is being studied, and perhaps will be varied by track. By that Feinberg means that for the road courses and superspeedways, a longer commercial break may fit under a caution flag. Conversely, at short tracks the network might go away for one minute at a time instead of three. This would allow the production team to catch re-starts at a track with lap times under thirty seconds.
Rusty Wallace was present, and indicated that he thought ESPN did an outstanding job last season, despite "taking some heat." He re-committed to his new role in the Infield Studio alongside of Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty. That combination should be an interesting one to watch.
Dale Jarrett was poised and once again seemed to be the right person to step-in and get the ESPN NASCAR "ship" back on course. His remarks were measured, honest and made complete sense in terms of his transition from driving to the commentator role.
One of the key points that Feinberg admitted was that ESPN's team that produced the race coverage was completely separate from the studio-based team that produced the NASCAR Now TV series last season. This certainly would explain why with all the experts and analysts on-site, NASCAR Now traveled ESPN "pool reporters" with little NASCAR experience to the races.
ESPN's Wendy Nix, Bob Holtzman and David Amber were unable to offer NASCAR Now anything other than "amateurish" news reports from the track. You may remember that it was David Amber who drew the wrath of Tony Stewart for Amber's reporting style in the garage area which would have been better suited to EXTRA or Access Hollywood.
Feinberg indicated that this year, all of the NASCAR TV production across the board has been merged into one big unit. This should result in more of the ESPN NASCAR personalities being featured on NASCAR Now, SportsCenter, and ESPNEWS. Hopefully, this influence will also spread to ESPN Radio and result in a higher profile for the sport in the giant media company that ESPN has become.
So, the ESPN crew is set and the final press conference had been concluded. On Saturday, ESPN begins once again to try and tackle one of the biggest TV committments in terms of manpower, expense and logistics that the company has ever take on.
With lots of positive changes and a renewed sense of enthusiasm, 2008 promises to bring better racing TV to the NASCAR fans from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
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