Tuesday, January 6, 2009
ESPN Announces 2009 NASCAR On-Air Line-Up
The news from ESPN for 2009 is a mixture of positive changes and some lack of change that may surprise fans.
Topping the news is the fact that Mike Massaro will replace Ryan Burr as one of the three co-hosts of NASCAR Now. Nicole Manske will return and both Manske and Massaro will travel to the racing weekends and report from the field. Ryan Burr was a solid interviewer and news anchor, but Massaro is a much more experienced NASCAR journalist.
Allen Bestwick will continue to host the Monday NASCAR Now roundtable that has become the flagship for ESPN2's coverage of the sport. Bestwick will apparently continue to have a constantly rotating panel of reporters, analysts and NASCAR personalities.
With Massaro moving to NASCAR Now, it will be Vince Welch who steps-up and joins the NASCAR on ESPN crew of pit reporters. Returning will be Dave Burns, Shannon Spake and Jamie Little. Welch filled-in last season and with the reduced IRL schedule on ESPN in 2009 was available. Welch will continue to work the IRL events as well.
Bestwick will also continue to host the NASCAR Countdown pre-race shows and have his trusty sidekicks with him. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty will return as regulars and will be joined by Ray Evernham on selected races. Evernham is ESPN's utility player and will appear on NASCAR Now, selected races as an analyst and also on other ESPN programs like First Take and the ESPNEWS Network.
Several weeks ago, TDP hinted that Marty Reid was going to be actively involved in ESPN's 2009 NASCAR coverage and we were correct. Jerry Punch will handle the play-by-play for the Nationwide Series races until the ESPN Sprint Cup coverage begins. At that time, Reid will step-in and handle the Nationwide events.
That will free Punch to focus his efforts on the final 17 Sprint Cup Series race for ESPN and ABC. Reid is an ESPN veteran who had been a fill-in for Punch in the past. Just like Welch, Reid will continue his IRL duties including the Indy 500.
Punch will once again be joined by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the announce booth. The NASCAR on ESPN team will be rounded-out by Tim Brewer.
This information answers a lot of questions about ESPN's 2009 NASCAR coverage. The Tech Center will be back on the road for the entire season with Brewer and his auto parts showcase. ESPN has also returned the Infield Pit Studio with Bestwick and company. This muti-purpose facility served to host a wide variety of programs for ESPN in 2008.
This new line-up gives Punch a breather when the Sprint Cup Series come around to ESPN and frees him from "double duty." While it does not address some of the play-by-play issues Punch struggled with over the last two years, perhaps it will be the break he needs to really bring home the Sprint Cup season with a strong finish.
Thanks to ESPN for all the information and the snazzy new picture of Mike Massaro. Good luck to the entire on-air and production crew during the 2009 season.
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