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.

To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet during the off-season.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

I vote for anyone who doesn't stick a mic in a driver's face and ask how they "feel".

That in mind, Shannon and Jamie are at the bottom of the list.

Krista Voda is at the top.

Jojaye said...

JD you give us this list to torture us ;) With so many really good reporters, ok I'm gonna try...

Lindsay C. gets most improved, hands down. No contest there, she was good at the start & just got better, very professional. Knows when & how to ask a coherent question, and when to quit asking.

Ray Dunlap is just awesome. A really great guy & reporter who knows he isn't the story. He gets favorite #2. Very close nexts are Krista, Steve Byrnes & Adam A.

My favorite all time isn't on the list because that 4 letter place had him in the wrong job.
Dr. Dick is tied with Doc as my favorite pit reporters.
OK Doc is 1A & Dr. Dick is 1B.
Dr. Dick just is great at getting answers, good to know he really is a nice guy off camera. I never have met him, but I always thought he would be.

Its about 70 something days till Fox, Speed & Daytona - right?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Jo,

Jay has the official Daytona 500 countdown clock over on his jayski.com website.

JD

Anonymous said...

Krista Voda's the best of the group.

I'd say a close second is Steve Byrnes, followed by Matt Yocum.

Grover said...

Ray Dunlap and Steve Byrnes is a too close to call. Completely different personalities, yet they both deliver where it counts.

However I think most of us would pay money to watch Dunlap's out takes :)

Newracefan said...

Dick Berggren is first for me, everyone respects him in the garage area and he frames his questions is such a way that he gets great answers that tell me something. Now comes the difficult part Krista, Steve, Ray and Matt are next with Ralph, Dave, Marty,and Mike after that. Lindsay comes third only because she's so new with Jamie (who has greatly improved)close behind and Shannon who's better but not good enough pulling up the rear.

Jojaye said...

Thanks JD for the link, 83!?! whole days... worse than waiting for Christmas! ;)

Dot said...

I'm with Jo on this one. This is torture.

I can't put my favorites in order, they are all good.

There are two that are my least favorites. I'm not naming names because I don't want to hurt their "feelings".

@ Grover, I'd pay to see them.

Karen said...

Ray Dunlap is my first pick. You can tell he's got a great sense of humor and he's good at his job. Mike Massaro is my second pick. Krista would be in my top three but for the fact I'm assuming, maybe incorrectly, that she'll be a nominee in the host position.

majorshouse said...

What a hard choice to pick from. I think overall it would have to be Steve Burns with Krista coming in a very close second and then probably Lindsey right on her heels because of their knowledge and the way that they get their answers.
I think that Dick Bergrin is definitely in a class by himself because of his experience and longevity in the auto sports world in general.

bevo said...

Ray Dunlap.

If the category is combination show host-pit reporter then it would be Krista Voda.

Dunlap does the best job of actually conveying information from the pits and he has to cover more of them than the reporters for ESPN, Fox and TNT.

Karen said...

Oh, yeah. I forgot Dr. Dick. As majorshouse said, he's all class and no BS. I feel like I'm being tested in high school; these picks are so difficult.

Jimbacca said...

If you want a collective group of pit reporters. As a group the truck series blows any collective out of the water. They never give the appearance of being at a loss for words.
Maybe its because the same group covers the series all year but its a more friendly environment and they know the boundries of when to not ask the stupid questions.

And to all those making fun of the halloween. That was so funny it hurt. The pure shock of Hornaday was well worth it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Karen,

There will be some on-air talent that will appear in more than one category. Right now, we are limiting things to the pit reporters in the three national NASCAR series races.

JD

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Anonymous said...

#1. - Matt Yocum
#2. - Dick Bergren

red said...

my brain hurts!

thanks for making this a two-day column, jd: i need to REALLY ponder this one for a while. so many good choices, so few "less than stellar" ones.

(and i'm still laughing about "dorothy" and hornaday!)

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DalyPlanet said...
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DalyPlanet said...
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Adam T. Martin said...

Dr. Dick Berggren is my #1 pit reporter.

Dave Burns is my other favorite.

Krista Voda is a good reporter.

I like Jamie Little.

Marty Snider is dead last. He does nothing for me and he somehow annoys me the most.

Cranky Girl said...

My list...

1. Steve Byrnes
2. Dr. Dick Berggren
3. Krista Voda

stricklinfan82 said...

Another extremely tough decision here. As was the case with the analysts, there's not a single pit reporter I dislike. Even the two newest reporters that have received a lot of criticism here made very noticeable improvements towards the end of the year, in my opinion.

Having said that, since a decision must be made I narrowed my list down to the top 3:

3.) Ray Dunlap

- The pit road TV face of the Truck Series for many years. He always does a very solid job with more pits to cover due to the smaller on-air crew, and certainly deserves to be carried over to Fox if the Truck Series ends up on that network again in 2009. No more leaving Ray behind when the Trucks moonlight on the "big boy network"!

2.) Steve Byrnes

- Fox's "Mr. Everything". Pit reporter from February through June, play-by-play man from June through November, and TV Host of NASCAR Live, Trackside, and TWIN all year long. Certainly one of the hardest working people in all of NASCAR TV, and he always does a great job no matter what hat he's wearing.

1.) Dick Berggren

The modern-day "dean" of NASCAR TV pit reporters. His constant level of outstanding performance over his nearly three straight decades working NASCAR TV broadcasts certainly makes him deserving of nothing but the utmost level of respect and admiration this fan can offer.

tom in dayton said...

Mr D:
Your columns on the best on-air talent in each category are good, but, in each case, basically boil down to how their slice of the NASCAR TV season is received among posters at THE DALY PLANET.
Certainly, each individual(in each category) has talent, on-camera presence and tries their best to do a good job in the positions they're assigned. Some have better knowledge than others and some have individual behaviours that set them out from the rest.
But it really becomes the responsibility of the producer of the broadcast to use the on-air talent in a way that it best showcases their strengths(not only to advance the talent's career, but also to advance their company's broadcast (which also benefits their own careers)).
We've seen, and in many of your columns over the two years, how the best of on-air talent both surpasses and fails due to those behind the scenes. The SPEED producers & directors in their many programs know how to get the best almost all of the time. FOX as well(except for Digger(and I still hope Sophia treasures her very own "Digger" mug)) and our own mutual pleased suprise with TNT this year allowed us to see what good production & direction combined with seasoned talent could bring to the screen. Finally, the lowered expectations we had with ESPN, along with the disappointments with the Sprint Cup broadcasts, certainly affected our opinions of their talent.
To this old curmungeon, the female on-air talent are pleasing to the eye while the men are the kind you'd like to spend an afternoon at the race with if you could be so lucky!
That said, Voda has been super, Lindsay is really good(especially on NBC-4) and Byrnes is the best of the youth (Dick B. is better, but Byrnes will get there when he gets to that age...)
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dick Berggren is the best. I'm fairly new to NASCAR-watching but to me he's the standout.

Tom said...

Dr. Dick. He is someones who knows the difference between what really happens in racing and "feelings" He deals in real racing issues, not hype. Mike Massaro is another favorite, but where he comes up short is how he handles some questionable circumstances. He has been in a situation where clearly the producer was yelling in his ear to find out how someone (JR) was "feeling" about crashing, missing the chase etc. I am guessing if the producer yelled that in Dr. Dicks ear, he wouyld resist and find a way to ask those questions with more dignity and class.
Most of the others are good enough, and I havent seen anyone who makes my blood boil since they got rid of Jeanne Zalesko (sp)?



Tom
Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dick Berggren is my favorite, but I also think Mike Massaro and Dave Burns are exceptionally good. Mike and Dave also seem like you could plug them into other roles (host of pre race; host or features/investigative reporter for NASCAR Now) very easily.

I second Lindsay Czarniak as most improved. She was also great as the host of the nightly Summer Olympics gymnastics coverage on Oxygen. And trust me - some of the hosts on NBC cable channels' Olympics coverage were terrible, including Tiki Barber and his female partner on MSNBC. Because of that, I imagine she's gotten some notice from other networks and also for the Winter Olympics. Probably depends on what she want to do.

Regarding Matt Yocum, I like him. JD, you mentioned his Sirius connection.There are some rumors that Tony Stewart's Sirius show was not renewed after the recent last show, and apparently Dale Jr said on his last show he's still waiting to hear if his show will get renewed. Guess Sirius/XM is getting out of the NASCAR driver business; Jimmie Johnson's show only lasted one season, I think.

One less NASCAR media outlet, I guess. Too bad, since the drivers don't have that kind of outlet on TV.

Nan S said...

Ray Dunlap brings a lot of enthusiasm to the position.

Zieke said...

I have to admit I did'nt like Berggren because of those goofy hats he wears. Guess he's good enough if you hear him on the radio,tho. I also admit looks DO count, so Krista, Shannon, Jamie,Lindsay,you are all right in my book. Keep it up!

red said...

still a very tough question for b/c, as tom in dayton pointed out, alot of how valuable a pit reporter is to a broadcast relies on the producer, not the reporter.

but that being said:
i have to give top billing to dr dick berggren. he's seen the sport thru so many changes and he has a strong historical background on whch to draw for his questions. i have never heard a stupid question come out of his mouth on air.

BUT! very, very close on his heels are two truck reporters and they stand shoulder to shoulder for me: krista voda and ray dunlap. intelligent questions, concise recaps, obviously solid relationships with the teams, which enables them to be welcome at the tough times and still be treated with respect by the drivers.

the balance of the nominees are mostly ok: some are over-used by their network, some just haven't been consistent. and still others need more time to really become solid, dependable pit reporters.

i have to give a shout-out to two who are relatively new to it all: lindsay czarniak and adam alexander. i believe they will both be even better in '09 and i wish we could have czarniak all year long! i see these two as the "up and comers" in pit reporting.

Matt Carey said...

Mike Massaro is a class act. Steady and calm and he gets to the point. I vote for him.

majorshouse said...

I chuckle everytime I think of the Halloween antics that the Speed crew pulled off and what fun from all involved.

Anonymous said...

My top 5 and why:

1. Matt Yocum: Classy, always asks the right questions which is reciprocated by drivers giving great answers, and he shows humor when it's the right time. There is a reason he's the only pit reporter again working for more than one network. I really like his stories during the race on crew guys and officials.

2. Dr. Dick Berggren: The veteran pit reporter in NASCAR. He's the original (yes in the early days, there was just one) pit reporter from ESPN. Dr Dick B. likes to crawl under a car with the best of them, and his enthusiasm shows week in and week out. He asks great questions, highly respected in the garage, and I love to read his magazine too! However, I prefer him in his #3 Dale hat vs his current hat.

3. Lindsey Czarniack and Krista Voda: Voda is good in the trucks, but Czarniack is great on the Cup series. Czarniack's only negative? She's around for only six races each year. I think Czarniak has done a fine job on her pre-race stories, they seem to be off the beaten path like riding with the truck driver. It was funny seeing her brush her teeth along side the road.

5. Ralph Shaheen, Mike Massaro, and Vince Welch when he does the Nationwide Series races. All three of these gentlemen do a solid job every time they are on the air. Good questions. Good stories during the races. Ok ok, if you go by the rules, there should only be one name in number 5, since there is a tie for 3rd, but I couldn't pick just one.

glenc1 said...

hmmmmmm...number one is easy, I have to go with Dr. Dick Berggeren...all that experience and knowing how to use it...I can't imagine disliking someone because of their *hat*, but personally, I like it and thought it was cool of the 41 team to make up a special one for him after he complemented Sorenson. Anyone remember the time they gave Kurt Busch a mike and he was doing his Dr. Dick impression? I'm no fan of Kurt's but had to admit, it was good, thought pale in comparison to the original!

Second...I guess I'd put Krista and Steve--they get extra credit for being multitaskers in addition to pit duty and they never miss a beat. Dave, Matt, Ray, Ralph and Marty in 'group 3'. I can't say I prefer one over the others, they all seem very professional. Mike, Adam and Lindsay probably next, though part of it is nothing stands out particularly weak or super strong...and if I'd watched more consciously I might have had them in group 3... and then Jamie, who really did seem more on target the last couple races. Last is Shannon. She may be able to improve, but I'd give her one more season & if she can't cut it, she should go.

Richie Rad said...

Number 1, Dr. Dick for sure. Anyone that continued to get advancing degrees, so he could afford better motors for his sprint cars, is #1 in my book!

Penny said...

I vote for
1. Dr. Dick
2. Ray Dunlap

Steve L. said...

I am a still photographer and shoot several races per year. Before and during the races, you would NOT believe just how hard these people work! With each pit reporter there's also the camera guy, a monitor carrier, and two or three other people that I'm not sure what they do.

All during the race, they're running up and down pit road to get to the story of the minute. And I mean flat out running. Don't forget how hot it is on pit road and being on pit road, you must have pants, shirt, and shoes at all times. Those July-August races are brutal! It really takes a lot out of you.

I know they divide up the pits with however many reporters they have, but let me tell you, some of these pit roads are VERY long. Even if you cover a third of the drivers, that can be a very long distance to run back and forth all day long!

I respect each and every one of the pit reporters for the physical aspects of what their job requires.

They all get my vote for just having the job and being able to do it.

My personal favorite this year is Ray Dunlap. He's fun, full of information, and very good at his job.

Anti-ESPN said...

Why, why, why, why, why , oh, why is Jamie Little and Shannon Spake even working in Nascar??? I'm not a chauvenist, but please, no more women on pit road, except Wendy Venturini because she actually knows racing. It's the dreaded ABC/ESPN way of sideline reporting. They know nothing, and show it. "Dale Jr.. How do you feel?" God please put them out to the same pasture as Jerry Punch...

PammH said...

#1 tie Steve Byrnes & Dr. Dick. Krista, Wendy & Ray strong seconds. The rest are okay, except for the blondes on ESPN-they have to GO!!

glenc1 said...

anti-ESPN...you say
"I'm not a chauvenist, but please, no more women on pit road" and then you compliment Wendy. Who's to say another woman won't come along who's as good or better (hard, I know) than Wendy? Don't complain because they're women, complain because they're poor at what they do, then you get it.

Kevin said...

The best has to be Krista Voda. Dick Berggren is a strong second, although I feel he tries to over-dramatize things a bit at times. Krista is all business, yet she's of course beautiful, talented, and fun to watch. Steve Byrnes comes third, followed by Dunlap.

kbaskins said...

Dr. Dick is definitely the best. He brings a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, knowledge, intelligence and common sense to his reporting that makes me appreciate him so much.

The rest of them are all excellent pit reporters, with the exception of Jamie Little and Shannon Spake. I don't know if those two are being told what to ask of if they're coming up with the questions on their own, but either way their interviews can only be described as moronic.

I'd like to give a special shout out to all the SPEED pit reporters for their wonderful sense of humour. It must be a job requirement at SPEED.

--KarenB

ri88girl said...

Doctor Dirt, Ray, Steve B, Wendy, Krista (when they let her)

Lisa Hogan said...

Third time trying to post in this one. :)

1. Dr. Dick Berggren

GinaV24 said...

Dick B, Krista Voda are my top picks. I like Steve Byrnes too and Dave Burns (when he's not doing stupid stuff). Matt Yocum and Marty Snider, along with most of the female contingent are on the bottom of the list. Ask intelligent questions, for heaven's sakes!

Delenn said...

I am not going to be critical of these hardworking folks individually, as the scanner listener at MIS (I think) said they were being directed on what to do. However, to those who ask how do you feel, or what is it like - don't. Ask something sensible.

Now, of the 13, I am going to do the top 2 categories.

The top bunch are: Krista Voda, Lindsay Czarniak, Matt Yocum, Ray Dunlap

Voda and Czarniak: both come up with good information, consisely, and decent interviews.

Yocum: Probably my favorite, always top quality info. Like when he worked for Fox and NBC, he should be in every cup pit lane.

Dunlap: He has grown on me, and I will miss seeing the new Craftsman tools!

The second bunch are: Steve Byrnes and Dave Burns. As well as capable multi-taskers, they too provide valuable information.

The rest are OK, remembering the first paragraph.