Friday, November 28, 2008
Best NASCAR TV Pit Reporter Of 2008?
As you can see from the picture of TNT's Lindsay Czarniak above, the 2008 group of NASCAR pit reporters came in all sizes, shapes and ages. Rookies and veterans combined to offer both compelling coverage and awkward moments on national TV where NASCAR was concerned.
This post is going to offer a thumbnail view of the 13 personalities who regularly patrolled pit road in 2008. What we are asking you to do is pick your favorite and perhaps offer some observations about moments you may remember.
SPEED's Truck Series pre-race host Krista Voda recently joined the NASCAR on Fox team as a full-time pit reporter for the Sprint Cup Series coverage. Voda is a well-known TV veteran who has been in various hosting and reporting roles over the past several years. Her upbeat and friendly style makes her popular with both the teams and the TV viewers.
Dr. Dick Berggren is a long-time NASCAR and racing aficionado who continues to be active in the publishing world. Berggren brings a veteran perspective to Fox, but continues to be a nice guy in an industry rapidly filling with tough guys. He has the ability to draw-out comments from drivers, crew chiefs and owners because of the trust he has built up over the years.
One of the busiest men in the NASCAR world is Steve Byrnes. Handling the pit reporting for the Fox package is only the start of his resume. Working for SPEED on Trackside, This Week in NASCAR and as the host of practice and qualifying shows he is on the NASCAR trail all season long. His sense of humor and good nature is well-known throughout the NASCAR world.
Also very busy this season was Matt Yocum. On pit road, he works for both the Fox and TNT race packages. Yocum often flies under the radar, but he is a talented TV-type who always has multiple projects underway. He may be best-known for producing the Tony Stewart radio program on Sirius. Veteran fans may also remember Yocum for his work on both ESPN and TNN's NASCAR coverage.
As TNT began, it was Czarniak who was the outsider trying to make her way into the NASCAR garage. Her full-time job is a local station sports anchor and reporter for NBC-4 in Washington, DC. Czarniak worked on practice and qualifying coverage for SPEED as well as the six TNT races. Her hard work won her a lot of praise from teams and her part-time job seems to have turned-out quite well.
Ralph Sheheen stepped-over from SPEED to report for TNT and walked back into a sport he knows very well. The past several years have seen him working on AMA, World of Outlaws and various sports car series on several networks. Sheheen is another TNN veteran and is now one of the hosts of the re-vamped SPEED Report.
If there is anyone on the TNT crew that has been around racing from the beginning, it is Marty Snider. A regular at Caraway Speedway, he eventually graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and headed for MRN Radio. Since that time, Snider has been on TV and radio continually for a variety of networks.
When ESPN rolled-out the 2008 pit reporter line-up it was anchored by Mike Massaro. He has been a blessing for ESPN with long-time ties to the network and a credibility that has been earned over some very tough years. Massaro became a semi-regular on the Monday NASCAR Now program and perhaps has an opportunity to expand his role for 2009.
Shannon Spake found herself as a full-time pit reporter for ESPN on both the Nationwide and Cup coverage this season. Ready or not, this was her chance to step into a full-time role. Despite some weakness with live interviews and a non-assertive presence at times, Spake kept the details straight and survived the very long season. With little experience on this level, that was a victory in itself.
A veteran with a long and diverse history is ESPN's Dave Burns. This season, the versatile Burns was given the opportunity to host several pre-race shows for Nationwide Series races and did a great job. But, many fans still remember him from standing-by while Leonard Chesser dunked the swamp buggy queen in the "sippy hole" on TNN's American Sports Cavalcade with the late Steve Evans.
A lot of attention follows Jamie Little everywhere she goes. Since moving over to the NASCAR package in 2007, Little has won the Long Beach Grand Prix Celebrity Race and regularly golfs with her ESPN co-workers. Little improved in 2008 and tried hard to integrate herself into the NASCAR culture. A model, reporter and mountain biker, Little may be the only pit reporter with an X-box and Playstation video game on the market.
Smiling all the way to the bank this season has been Adam Alexander. Although somewhat new to the Truck Series, Alexander stepped-in with no problems and handled the live national TV races all season long for SPEED. In return, the network expanded his role with hosting duties on NASCAR in a Hurry and The SPEED Report. He capped the season with a memorable Glinda, the Good Witch performance on Halloween.
Perhaps the most colorful pit road announcer once again is Ray Dunlap. His style is often times hilarious and his ability to poke fun at himself is well-known. This year, Dunlap made it through with no suspensions and no off-track antics that made the newspaper. He has been with the Truck Series and SPEED for a long time and perhaps exposed more viewers to Craftsman Tools over the years than anyone else. Unfortunately, it is going to take the entire off-season to block-out the memories of Dunlap skipping down pit road as Dorothy in a blue dress complete with Toto in a basket.
Since Speedweeks in February, some of these pit road personalities have been working continually on the Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races. While the four ESPN pit reporters carried the heaviest load, the diversity of the overall group is amazing.
For those of you wondering about names like Wendy Venturini, Hermie Sadler and Marty Smith, there will be an additional posting for the reporters who did not participate in the actual race coverage of the three national series.
Please take a moment and share with us your favorite pit reporter choice for 2008 and perhaps some other memories of interviews and moments on pit road that got your attention during the ten long months of the NASCAR season.
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