Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ESPN Supports Nationwide Series With Big Nashville Effort


In 2007, ESPN was accused of leaving the Busch Series out in the cold when the "regulars" stepped-away from the Cup circuit for stand-alone races.

Viewers remember no Infield Studio, hosts doing double duty, and substitute analysts like Randy LaJoie filling-in for the ESPN stars. Apparently, those days are long gone.

As the NASCAR on ESPN crew prepares to head to Nashville for a stand-alone Nationwide Series race, the network has brought along all the bells and whistles for a full weekend of race TV coverage.

With Jerry Punch spending Easter with his family, it will be popular motorsports veteran Marty Reid calling the play-by-play action for the weekend. Reid will be joined in the booth by Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree. Wallace has a vested interest in this series, and knows the teams and drivers very well.

Recently, Wallace has been able to make light of the struggles of his son Steven as he pursues a racing career in the Nationwide Series. "Expensive" may be the one word to sum-up 2007, and Wallace has been very upfront about the costs involved in helping his son come-up through the ranks. Now, with Wallace enjoying his role at ESPN, it should be interesting to hear his take on the overall health of the series and the quality of the racing.

ESPN will also bring along four pit road reporters with Vince Welch stepping-in for the vacationing Dave Burns. Alongside Welch will be Mike Massaro, Jamie Little and Shannon Spake. Most NASCAR fans know that Welch is a pit reporter for ESPN and ABC's coverage of the IndyCar Series.

The final good news for the Nashville weekend is that the hardest working man in NASCAR show business will also be along for the ride. Allen Bestwick will host the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show and anchor the Infield Pit Studio during the race weekend. He will be joined by Rusty Wallace for the pre-race show, and Brad Daugherty for all the coverage.

ESPN2 will air Friday practice live at 2:30PM Eastern Time, and then return with a thirty minute edition of NASCAR Now at 7:30PM from the ESPN studios. Saturday, tape-delayed qualifying will be seen at 11AM on ESPN2 before coverage switches to ESPN.

The NASCAR Countdown pre-race show follows a live NIT Tournament College Basketball game at 2PM, so viewers should be on their toes in case circumstances force Countdown to begin on ESPN Classic.

Countdown is a one hour show, with race coverage scheduled to begin at 3PM. ESPN has given the race a three hour window, with live featured horse racing following immediately at 6PM.

If the race runs a bit long, it should be interesting to see if ESPN decides to put post-race coverage on ESPN Classic or tries to integrate it into the ESPNEWS coverage. After the Busch Series Memphis fiasco last season, things are hopefully in-place should the race run long.

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.

16 comments:

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stricklinfan82 said...

I'm sorry but ESPN dropped the ball on this one BIG TIME.

Dr. Punch has the weekend off. Allen Bestwick is available and is not taking the week off, so ESPN is bringing him to work the race... but to work only in the pit studio????????????? What the hell is that?

This is a major blunder on ESPN's part in a year where they have pretty much righted all of their wrongs from a year ago.

How dare ESPN bring Bestwick to this race and shove him in the pit studio to host the pre-race show and race recaps while the IRL guy gets the call to step in and take the play-by-play assignment!

Major major major thumbs down on this one. Most people, including myself, think Bestwick should be the #1 NASCAR play-by-play man for ESPN, but at a minimum I guess I was naive to believe that he would be an automatic #2... but no, the IRL guy gets to pinch-hit for Dr. Punch at a NASCAR race! What a debacle. What's going to happen when Reid is doing an IRL race while Dr. Punch gets a week off, are they going to bring in Paul Page from their NHRA broadcasts to be the #3 while Bestwick still looks on from the pit studio? And if Page isn't available will they turn to some X-Games snowmobile racing play-by-play announcer or some horse racing ESPN play-by-play announcer to be the #4 guy while Allen continues to look on from the studio?

What the hell else does Allen Bestwick have to do, how many other roles does he have to add to his already full schedule every week to get a little bit of respect from his bosses at ESPN? Let's say, God forbid, that something happens to Dr. Punch during the Cup portion of the schedule and he's not able to go on a Sunday... are they going to bring Marty Reid in to NASCAR land again to take the spot Allen Bestwick deserves? God I hope not but I'm sure they would, and that thought really really makes me sick.

I am sick to my stomach on this one, I certainly thought this was a no-brainer to be fixed this year after so many other wrongs were righted earlier. Shame shame shame shame on ESPN!

Anonymous said...

stricklinfan82,
You make it seem like pit studio host is a lowly role. When it is one of the most high profile positions in NASCAR TV. We next an expect like AB to control traffic for the HOUR long countdown show. That has been AB's role and it is best that he stick to it. Would you rather have Suzy K., Chris F., or Eric K. return?

Anonymous said...

"We next an expect "

I meant we need an "expeRt".

Daly Planet Editor said...

stricklinfan,

The studio role is Allen's permanently this year. He is the anchor for the studio coverage both at the track and on the Monday NASCAR Now show.

Networks create roles, and it is not like swapping positions in a pick-up basketball game. It is all contractual and organized before the season begins. That includes vacations for the staff.

Last season got Bestwick rewarded with his new role as the centerpiece of the ESPN coverage. Most networks want to keep those guys in one role. I certainly understand your point, especially after Bestwick's hard work on the Busch Series races as the play-by-play announcer and often the pre-race host.

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

No question, if they can't or won't use Eli Gold ( who I believe actually is doing the MRN broadcast of the race) Allen B. would be the best person to call the race - BUT he can only do so much. I think Marty Reid is a better fill-in for Jerry Punch than he (or who?) would be for Allen B in the pre- and post-race. Also, I am hopeful Allen will still anchor a 1 hour N-NOW Monday. Hopefully if Jerry is away for one or more Cup races they will have Allen fill in then, but he will still have Monday N-NOW to prep for.

Tripp said...

I have no problem with Marty Reid sitting in Dr. Jerry's chair this weekend. Marty was excellent when he filled in last year. I thought he was better covering NASCAR than he was doing the Indy Cars. It's fortunate for we viewers that ESPN has Marty, lest poor Jerry get ground to dust by season's end.

To suggest Eli Gold is interesting but he's old school, and ESPN is anything but.

As JD said, AB is the infield studio guy. That's his gig. Bring Marty into the booth and let Allen do his job.

What's interesting is that no one has commented on Rusty being in the booth. After a short sigh, I wondered if we might see a different Rusty up there this weekend. If it's the one that has converted many of us with his good work this year, it might be a good and entertaining telecast.

Newracefan said...

Didn't Rusty and Marty do a race together last year or am I confused? I'm ok with this lineup, I guess DJ wanted the week off.

Daly Planet Editor said...

richard,

I will have a story coming up tomorrow about the big Monday show and the fact they are doing it despite no Cup race.

The ESPN TV package is so huge that the network has tried to encourage folks to take off early in the season, because once it gets to June they want all hands on board to tweek the telecasts before the Cup portion begins.

This is going to be a nice opportunity for ESPN to make-up for the Busch Series issues of last season and present this series with big-time TV support.

JD

stricklinfan82 said...

JD,

Thanks for the info. I guess the point I was trying to make is that I wish things were a little more flexible at ESPN so Allen Bestwick could move up to the booth when Dr. Punch isn't available.

He certainly deserved his promotion to the 2nd highest profile position at ESPN - studio host - but I hate the fact that, as you stated, there is no flexibility in that #2 role that would let him move up into the #1 role - play-by-play announcer - when needed.

In my eyes when the #1 guy (Punch) isn't available, the #2 guy (Bestwick) should move up to the #1 spot. It just doesn't make sense to me to bring in the #3 guy (Reid) to take the #1 role just for the sake of keeping the #2 role unchanged... if that makes sense.

If I was ESPN I would have moved Allen Bestwick to the booth and done one of three things to the Pit Studio:

1.) not used the Pit Studio at all and used the simpler set up of having the booth guys carry the pre-race show and the race recaps (like they did at the stand-alone races last year and like Fox does during rained out races)

2.) asked Bestwick to host both the pre-race show and call the race from the booth - ala Bill Weber for several years on NBC and TNT.

or, to me the best solution:

3.) brought in Nicole Manske to take over as Studio Host

I do respect Marty Reid and think he does a decent job, but my frustration was less for him personally and more for Allen Bestwick not getting the nod. I would certainly prefer an IRL announcer like Reid over a stick-and-ball announcer like a Mike Tirico or Brad Nessler, but at the same time I would prefer a NASCAR announcer like Allen Bestwick over the IRL announcer that most likely hasn't attended a NASCAR race of any kind to this point in 2008 and perhaps hasn't even as much as watched one on TV.

PammH said...

okay, here's what everyone has missed here-Rusty is GOING TO BE IN THE BOOTH again-arrrrrrg!! I have no problem w/Marty Reid-he did a great job last yr, imo. I too, would rather see AB. But to know this upfront, my goodness...I just LOVE this blog!!! ty, JD!

Anonymous said...

The way ESPN operates revolves around studio shows moreso than live events. Chris Berman is probably the biggest football personality on the network, but he hosts a studio show.

It's like when Musburger worked for CBS and hosted the NFL Today. Calling the studio host #2 is unfair.

Talking about crossing disciplines though, if Alan is the top motorsports show host for ESPN, he should be spending Memorial Day weekend as the studio host for the Indy 500 (it has been Musburger the last couple years)

SophiaZ123 said...

Pammh

I GOT that Rusty was going to be in the booth again but as I read it, I put my hands over my ears and started singing Yankee Doodle to tune out Rusty's BOOTH ATTITUDE Voice,lol.

Seriously, SOMEBODY on this fine blog remind me, Allan B was in the booth for the Montreal Race where Harvick, R Gordon and was it Carpentier ALL DID DONUTS after the race. AB was in the booth and did a great job of letting that NASCAR madness play out without being a constant chatter box about it.

I loved how him in the booth that day. WHY WAS HE and why could that NOT happen this week? If I missed that, excuse the dumb question.

Soph

Daly Planet Editor said...

You guys make great points. I am also interested to see how Rusty is on the air without Jerry Punch next door. Those two just did not click.

Wallace seems to be re-born again in the studio and on NASCAR Now. It should be curious to see if that carries over to his race commentary. Especially now that he does not have to sell us the Draft Tracker and all that other nonsense.

Marty Reid gets along well with Rusty, as they have the IndyCar experience together. With AB downstairs to take up the slack, I think it might be a good broadcast.

Sophia, Bestwick's fulltime gig this year is as the studio face of ESPN's NASCAR coverage. Bouncing back and forth between that and PXP is like being a carpenter or a plumber, they both work in the same house but do very different things.

BTW - My Comcast DVR is eight dollars a month, no strings attached, return anytime. Sooner or later, the DVR lifestyle is going to get you!

JD

Anonymous said...

Still no answer from ESPN as to why they allow a team owner to be in the booth for the broadcast of a race in which his own team is competing.

Do they do this in other sports, too?

Mike said...

It should be noted that that broadcast at 11a.m. on Saturday will be a tape-delayed broadcast of final practice from Friday, and not qualifying. Since there's only an hour window to work with, ESPN must've decided qualifying would spill over too much into espn2's coverage of College Basketball.