Saturday, February 23, 2008
ESPN Talks NASCAR For Three Wet Hours
If there was ever any doubt that Allen Bestwick was the right man to put in the ESPN Infield Pit Studio, it was erased on Saturday night.
Hosting NASCAR Countdown at 7PM, Bestwick began a three hour journey that showcased the resources and deep racing knowledge that ESPN has finally been able to coordinate for their NASCAR coverage this season.
Hands down, this was a moment for the NASCAR on ESPN team that may serve as a rallying point for the rest of the 2008 season.
Between the Infield Pit Center announcers, the pit reporters and the race announcers in the booth, the network stayed on the air for three hours without a wheel turned on the track.
Now, during the year when ESPN runs into a difficult circumstance with their race coverage, they have something to reference that can serve to inspire the whole team. Simply by remembering that night when they all pulled together to fill three hours in the rain of Southern California, things are not going to seem all that bad when a "TV moment" happens.
Bestwick was simply masterful in organizing the troops, and credit needs to be given to the pit reporters, including newcomer Shannon Spake, who worked in the rain to get interviews and covered a tremendous variety of topics. Sometimes about news, sometimes about personal issues, and sometimes simply about goofy rain delay fun, ESPN got it right.
The amazing thing was that there were no SportsCenter cut-ins, there were no ESPNEWS updates, and there was not a Hollywood celebrity in sight.
This was "old school NASCAR on ESPN." We are at the track in the rain and we are going to stay until it's over. Dare I say, it was even fun to watch.
The cooperation of the NASCAR drivers was outstanding. Fans may have switched favorites after some of the extended interviews and frank conversations exchanged during this coverage. Once again, Rusty Wallace proved himself to be perfectly suited to the Infield Pit Center analyst role alongside of Bestwick.
These two have known each other for years, and Wallace knows that Bestwick will keep him from getting out of hand or too excited. Even Brad Daugherty was key in explaining his former role as a member of NASCAR's committee that serves to hear appeals of penalties for the national series.
Upstairs, Jerry Punch was very comfortable using his reporting skills to draw candid conversation from Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. It was especially nice to see Petree open himself up and show more of his true personality. Tim Brewer pitched in from the Tech Center, and only the bad weather kept him indoors.
In the end, the rain cancelled everything, but from one perspective that did not matter. Everyone on the NASCAR on ESPN TV crew now knows two things they did not last season.
One, they have a new leader in Allen Bestwick. Two, now they can handle anything.
Once everyone dries out it will be interesting to see how Fox and ESPN deal with the pending Sunday TV network scramble.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.