Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nice Guy DJ Copp Gets A Reward

There have been few stories more interesting than the continuing fan reaction to Bobby Labonte pit crew member DJ Copp.

Added originally to NASCAR Now for tips on pit stops, his plain and simple style of presenting NASCAR issues to TV viewers caught-on immediately. Copp has outlasted two show hosts and one studio analyst on the ESPN2 TV series already.

Copp has worked for several teams during his career including Ultra Motorsports, Roush Racing, DEI and now Petty Racing. A recent profile on the Internet says his most memorable racing experience was winning street stock races at Canandaigua Speedway in New York. It also says he is a New England Patriot fan.

Last season on NASCAR Now saw Copp brought into the studio to add commentary. That experiment went very well. This year, fans have seen him return to add expanded features and to carry a live camera and microphone on pit road during races. Some of his conversations speaking to the fans during pit stops have been memorable.

Now, on the final week of racing before ESPN steps back into the Sprint Cup Series, Copp is getting another opportunity. On Saturday night from Gateway International Speedway near St. Louis, Copp will be filling-in for the vacationing Tim Brewer in the Tech Center.

Copp began as a fabricator with Ultra Motorsports and works in the auto body business in North Carolina during the week. His perspective on issues associated with racing at Gateway should be very interesting.

Viewers may see Copp during final practice coverage on Friday night at 7PM ET and during qualifying on Saturday at 5PM. With Allen Bestwick also on vacation, it will be Dr. Jerry Punch hosting the pre-race show from the broadcast booth. Look for Copp to contribute in that program as well.

With all of the high-priced on-air talent and big names swirling around ESPN's coverage of the sport, it is nice to know that a 30 year-old guy from Ontario, NY who just loves NASCAR can make his way onto national TV and be successful.

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ESPN Adds Another Sprint Cup Owner

Just when we thought the silly season was limited to drivers, it was ESPN's own Brad Daugherty who announced he was going to be joining the ranks of Sprint Cup Series owners.

Appearing on the Tuesday edition of NASCAR Now, host Ryan Burr introduced Daugherty and his 2009 Sprint Cup driver Marcos Ambrose. Daugherty has partnered with the JTG team to create a new racing entity that will campaign in the Sprint Cup Series full-time next season.

Burr spoke with Ambrose and Daugherty and touched on all the points of the deal. Originally, Daugherty was rumored to be entering the Craftsman Truck Series. Now, the news has come that JTG-Daugherty racing will be moving up to the big time.

Starting as a single car team, it should be interesting to see how Daugherty progresses. Burr did a good job of pinning Daugherty down on exactly why he got into a situation like this. Daugherty was not shy in mentioning that it was ESPN and his exposure that helped to keep his NASCAR profile high and enable this type of deal.

Burr turned to Andy Petree to ask about what being an owner will bring to Daugherty at ESPN. "Credibility" was the response. Petree is not one to mince words and as a former owner Petree could speak to the subject.

As for Ambrose, Petree said there is going to be a pretty steep learning curve for the Aussie. It was a diplomatic response, but it seemed that Petree was a bit surprised that Ambrose had come along as a part of the deal. Perhaps, fans will remember that thought for next season.

Burr continued the show with a good interview with media-friendly Joey Logano. Still very young in many ways, it is nice to see a fresh face being promoted as the future of the sport. Burr tried to ask his sophisticated and news-oriented questions, but ultimately Logano is a teenager and this adult approach did not work.

The entire purpose of Logano being on the show was Burr having the ability to ask about the Home Depot car in 2009. "Do you think you are ready?" asked Burr. "I think I am ready," said Logano. It is times like this that the naive side of the NASCAR Now crew comes out. Every driver is ready for the opportunity of a lifetime.

It was nice of ESPN to give a slot to the Kyle Petty charity motorcycle ride. Even nicer was to hear the mellow voice of Harry Gant calling-in by phone from the tour stop in Lexington, KY. Gant showed once again the "old school" NASCAR style that is sorely missed in the sport today.

There is no doubt that once the Daugherty news gets a bit older reaction will begin. Along with Ray Evernham and Rusty Wallace, ESPN now has three active owners with teams in either the Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series on staff. Whether he likes it or not, whatever Brad Daugherty says on-the-air from now on will be run through a very different "filter" by viewers.

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