Saturday, July 26, 2008
Showtime For The NASCAR On ESPN Gang
ESPN has a big day planned across three of its networks. Sunday at 10AM ET host Ryan Burr will kick things off on ESPN2 with a one hour edition of NASCAR Now.
Most of the content will come from the ESPN on-air staff at The Brickyard. There are currently over fifteen ESPN announcers and reporters on the scene and no doubt the top story will be tires. This program has been consistently good in 2008 and the pressure is on as the ESPN portion of the Sprint Cup schedule begins Sunday afternoon.
Reach-up and change the remote to SPEED at 11AM for two hours of RaceDay. Live from the SPEED Stage host John Roberts will be joined by Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace. Two key live guests on the show will be Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. Reporter Wendy Venturini's Real Deal segment will be with Sam Hornish who is an Indy Car veteran trying to make the transition to NASCAR.
A special feature on RaceDay will be Ken Squier offering an essay on the racing history of Indy. This will tie-in with a review of Tony Stewart's racing in several series at the track and a feature on how heartache in the big races at Indy always seems to come along at the worst possible time.
As Daly Planet readers may remember, this season RaceDay was shifted back an hour so it did not overlap with ESPN's NASCAR Countdown. This first week the Allen Bestwick led program begins at 1PM and runs for a full hour.
Bestwick has to move his chair over because ESPN has four panelists on the show from Indy. Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace will be joined by Ray Evernham for the pre-race show, and Daugherty and Wallace will remain as a part of the announce team during the race with Bestwick. This crew will also host the post-race programming.
At 2PM the dress rehearsal is over and ESPN takes to the air for the first Sprint Cup Series race in the network's seventeen race TV package. Dr. Jerry Punch will call the play-by-play with first year Lead Analyst Dale Jarrett and second season veteran Andy Petree. These three will handle all the ESPN and ABC Sprint Cup telecasts down the stretch.
Since Allen Bestwick has taken over Suzy Kolber's role in the Infield, it will be Shannon Spake joining the pit reporting team this season. Returning veterans Jamie Little, Dave Burns and Mike Massaro round-out the crew that will call the action on pit road. Last year, this group was roundly criticized for not following-up with drivers after accidents or when a car pulled directly into the garage. This season, they have been outstanding on the Nationwide Series races with those issues. Let's hope the focus does not shift on Sunday.
ESPN said that it is not unveiling any new gizmo's or TV tricks this season, just trying to refine the issues that bothered fans last year. Look for Jarrett to play a major role in this telecast bigger than just an analyst and for him to seek-out opinions from Wallace and Daugherty during the live race. Jarrett is a team-builder and that is exactly what this coverage lacked in 2007.
As Daly Planet readers are aware, this race last year was three hours of racing that led to ESPN only showing the winning car cross the finish line. Not one other car was shown at all. Fans got to see the winner waving, slowing down and then slowing down some more. Meanwhile, the real stories of the race were being played-out on the track. Hopefully, ESPN has learned the hard lesson that Fox did not earlier this year. Who wins may not always be the biggest story of the race in a season that is six months old.
ESPN has a great graphics package on the Nationwide Series, they have dumped the music videos and the hype completely. The network seems poised to make a big decision whether to cover the Sprint Cup racing action wherever it takes place or to just follow the leaders and the big names like last season.
After the race, ESPNEWS will kick into high gear and go live with the post-race press conference. I am told unofficially that this time there will actually be a reporter assigned for ESPNEWS and live interviews will be done. We shall see. Since the race is scheduled from 2 to 6PM, we may also see the 6PM SportsCenter focus on Indy.
SPEED is up next as they begin the Sunday night review programming. The SPEED Report will be at 7PM, Victory Lane at 8PM and Wind Tunnel at 9PM. This three hour block should have some good coverage of Indy from several different perspectives. Having John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace sitting in Victory Lane while ESPN is still on-the-air interviewing the winner is always interesting to watch. No word on the hosts of SPEED Report or guests on Wind Tunnel.
ESPN2 returns the one hour Sunday night wrap-up edition of NASCAR Now at 10PM hosted by Ryan Burr. This should be a good opportunity to see highlights of all three series that raced at Indy along with a final word on the tire issues and any late-breaking news. This show will be on every Sunday through the final race at Homestead.
So, from 10AM through 11PM Eastern Time NASCAR fans can overdose on all kinds of NASCAR shows. This post will host your comments about the "TV support shows" on Sunday. There will be an new post for in-progress comments up at Noon ET for the race itself, so please join us.
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