Saturday, February 28, 2009

Las Vegas A Truly Amazing Race For ESPN

After two seasons of Nationwide Series telecasts, the third time was the charm for the NASCAR on ESPN team. Las Vegas was the third race of the 2009 season and may well be remembered as the best NASCAR event televised since the network returned to the sport.

A brief over-run of college basketball moved the first several segments of the NASCAR Countdown show to the ESPN Classic Network. Allen Bestwick teamed with Dale Jarrett and Brad Daugherty to present a program that included lots of Las Vegas references and color. Rusty Wallace had the weekend off.

It was when Jarrett moved up to the announce booth that something unfolded that NASCAR fans have not seen from the telecast team. ESPN finally put all the pieces of the Nationwide Series jigsaw puzzle in place. From the drop of the green flag through the overtime ending, this was the kind of live event coverage that fans originally expected from The Worldwide Leader in Sports.

The TV team stripped all the unwanted extras from the telecast and focused the entire four hour production on the racing. Mike Massaro moved from the studio to pit road and led a team of reporters that finally dropped the hype and focused on interviewing drivers out of the race and keeping things updated for TV viewers.

Dr. Jerry Punch is a new man in 2009 and his focus on simply calling the play-by-play action has resulted in a new on-air dynamic. Even after almost four hours and with a green-white-checker finish looming, Punch was excited and setting the scene for the fans.

Without Punch continually asking questions of his analysts and using the same tired catch-phrases over-and-over again, Jarrett and Petree have come alive. This may have been the best telecast for Andy Petree since he joined the ESPN team. Petree was outstanding in his knowledge and understanding of the events and strategies unfolding in the race.

Jarrett used his best skill in this event and that is listening. Rather then step-in and try to help Punch with the call of the race, Jarrett took the role of his father and added his opinion when it was needed. The timing was perfect as Petree and Punch really took the lead in this telecast.

Ultimately, the biggest contribution was from the producer and the director of the race. Gone from the telecast was the loud music into commercial. Gone were the endless ESPN promos. Gone was the fascination with only reporting the positions of the Sprint Cup Series drivers. This live event was balanced and represented the first real hardcore racing telecast from ESPN in a very long time.

Even after the race running more than thirty minutes over the scheduled timeslot, ESPN2 stayed for a live interview with the winner. This smart move, even for the second-tier Nationwide Series, will leave a lasting impression among the fans.

What was your reaction to the Nationwide Series race telecast on ESPN2? Please feel free to add your comments by clicking on the comments button below.

TDP is a family-friendly website, so foul language or hateful speech will result in your comment being deleted.

Thanks again and happy posting.


Anonymous said...

Maybe this will serve as a guide to ESPN when they start broadcasting the Cup races later this year.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Almost nothing tops the picture of UNC fan DJ in a Duke blue shirt.

I could not find a live race feed on the FOX Sports website for the race. I wonder whether that is due to its being an EESPN race or a victim of the economy. I'm sure FOX Sports had the FOX Trac running for N-wide races last year.

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bevo said...

My comments from the race post-

Great coverage all around by ESPN. Guys in the booth were great including the good doctor. Pit reporters had good information. Great camera work and loved the lighter production touch.

Foxtrax still works for NW races, use the Cup url and just change "cup" to "busch"

Penny said...

Sure hope that they keep-up with this format.They did an outstanding job today. I could not beleive that it was the ESPN gang.
Thanks ESPN, that's the way it should be. Keep up the good work.

TexasRaceLady said...

This telecast held my attention from green flag to the checkers.

Timely information, good interviews of those in the garage, and NO SCRIPT!

Great job ESPN. Keep it up.

Karen said...

I'm betting things were all around better because of the exciting action on the track, plus the Cup drivers causing the most trouble. They didn't have time for all that excessive drivel that we're used to seeing. Remember AP said he needed to catch his breath.

Karen said...

Plus having Mike Massaro back. He's good on NN but is certainly missed in the pits.

ASA Fan said...

The only thing that could have made the race better....would have been acknowledgement of your work in the last year to help the race coverage.

DJ was really on top of his game. The Mike Bliss interview really shows how hard the sport can be.


RonF. said...

I couldn't agree more. Finally, a NASCAR race free of the annoyances that we are forced to endure the rest of the time. Three solid announcers, two more than competent pit reporters. This was the way ESPN used to cover NASCAR and, until today, I didn't realize how much I missed it. I just hope that the powers that be at both NASCAR and ESPN recognize the quality of today's broadcast, and offer their viewers more of the same in coming weeks.

majorshouse said...

I definitely enjoyed the telecast much better today and I certainly hope that this is something that will be coming when they get the Cup series as well. It was definitely one wild race and the broadcast team did a great job of keeping my attention.

Dot said...

As I said during the race comments, wow, what a race. The coverage was great. Did someone in production have the weekend off too?

I noticed that Brad D didn't seem as bad today without Rusty there. Maybe the combo has something to do with it. Use DJ in both places.

stricklinfan82 said...

I enjoyed the broadcast. That's not a surprise to me though because in my opinion the ESPN Nationwide coverage (but for a few bumps in the road) was very solid last year as well. The issue last year was good Saturday broadcasts not translating at all to Sunday.

I was pleased with today's results, but last year taught me to never use a Nationwide broadcast as any kind of gauge as to whether or not anything has positively changed at ESPN. So I'm still far from optimistic looking ahead to the Cup cars hitting the track at the Brickyard, but I certainly hope my doubts are proven to be unfounded when that time comes.

As a final thought, I wonder how many people that don't work for Fox Sports were screaming things at their TV's today like "Boy this race coverage would actually be enjoyable if there were screaming and dancing cartoon characters covering up the race cars!" or "Boy ESPN really dropped the ball by letting the TV viewers see all the positions decided live on their TV screens! TV viewers that spend 3-4 hours watching a race waiting for that last lap should always have the rug pulled out from under them once the leader trips the line and be forced to read the Internet or their newspaper to know any results beyond first place!"

Karen said...


Now that's funny. Good post.

Kristin said...

ESPN needs to keep DJ in the booth all season. I love him calling races. He doesn't just concentrate on one driver, like Rusty does(usually it being his son).

Kenn Fong said...


I did not see this race, but I wish I did.

It's nice to see you on record giving well-deserved kudos to Dr. Jerry Punch. I'm sure you got tired reading all the posts from trolls who said you had a private grudge against Dr. Jerry or were bitter after leaving ESPN.

Keep calling them as you see them.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

Daly Planet Editor said...


The fun of watching things that were total disasters like NASCAR Now and The SPEED Report become great TV series is much more fun than worrying about angry people with keyboards.

Isn't TV interesting?


Dot said...

@ Strick,


Anonymous said...

I just hope Punch can keep it up. In the same way he gets tired on long telecast days, he gets tired over a season. It's a long way off until the Cup races are handed over to Punch - I hope by then he doesn't revert into the bingo-style numbers calling of the past.

bevo said...


Great last paragraph. It seems like they throw all this extra window dressing in a race to justify unnecessary positions on the production staff or to impress other networks. It has nothing to do with us as consumers of their product.

It was refreshing today to not have music videos or goofy clips of drivers coming back from commercials - they just came back to a camera shot of the racing.

Sophia said...

i read thru here and STILL need to see who won the race. I SET extra time on VCR but it cut off with two laps to go (I check before doing the big rewind...) sigh

but as STLFAN said, good NW coverage does not mean good CUP race so I am not holding my breath.

Dot said...

@ Dear Sophia,

Da Biff won. Watch the race anyway. It was good.

I hate it when I don't add enough time to the DVR also. It's sometimes hard to gauge. I add at least an hour now.

trish in nc said...

Great broadcast!
The Doc seemed very relaxed. He, AP & DJ were on top of their game from flag to flag. Staying with the race even though it ran into basketball time showed that ESPN is dedicated.

hotaru said...

I actually was suprised to be flipping through and saw ESPN still at Las Vegas... even though that the race should have been knocked off for a basketball game.
I expected worse from them.

Anonymous said...

@hotaru--ESPN stays with live events and will move the upcoming event to one of the other channels if one is available. 99.99% of the time Classic is airing repeat throw away shows but when the College Football season starts then pretty much every ESPN network is filled to the brim and we're left channel surfing trying to see if the Countdown is anywhere.

The only time that they move a live event is if it's on network TV and due to the TV window they have no other option. i.e. network may let them run 5 or 10 minutes in but not an hour.

Ken said...

I hope ESPN sees how much money they can save and present a better race. Frequently, less is more as it was in this case. Maybe ESPN is tightening their belt due to the economy and it will give us better racing.

kang said...

The list of what was gone was missing one.The time interval,that was gone.Put up less than 20 times.Now keep in mind ESPN runs the names and interval on the same line this year.So it takes no more space than the running order. Maybe Espn will drop the down and distance on football games.Baseball games they could remove the count and outs from the screen.Basketball they could remove the 24 second clock.I'm sure fans of those sports would approve.Just look at this blog tonight.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Not too sure what you are driving at with your comment. You wanted the times scrolled after the first run of the positions and then laps down?


Anonymous said...

I watched the race today and was pleasantly surprised at the job ESPN did. They were certainly on top of things. Hopefully it will just get better and better as the season goes on.

kang said...

DPE 11:32 ESPN runs the time interval in the same manner as TNT did last year.It is new for ESPN and it is a improvement.It(the interval) is also missing from the screen most of the time.

The J said...

Like some others said, im not totally optimistic on their cup coverage. i hope their great coverage today wasnt a fluke, but i think it was.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Thanks for the info. I will pay attention for the remaining ESPN races to that graphic element.

My question would be does the Director or Producer have to call for that or should it just be put up automatically on a green flag run?

Thanks again for bringing up the topic, sometimes it takes a while but I usually get it sooner or later.


Anonymous said...
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SallyB said...

I knew ESPN could do it! Someone must have watched their race coverage from the 'old days' and realized they could just show the race and make fans happy! Let's just hope they remember this for the Cup race. Great job on the coverage today.

Delenn said...

Are you reading ESPN? That's what we want. Every week, Cup and Nationwide. You can do it. Well done for doing it. Now do it again, and again, and again.

Are you reading Fox? That's what we want. If ESPN can do it, you sure as heck can.

GinaV24 said...

I really enjoyed the race broadcast yesterday. Great job and boy was I surprised.

I would really like to see this same dynamic happen for ESPN for the Sprint cup broadcasts. I can live without Rusty quite well thanks and it was nice the Jerry was actually excited.

GinaV24 said...

hey, Anon 6:50 -- we're glad JD is back!

Anonymous said...

West Coast Diane said:

My husband watched the entire race with me and was totally engaged, so that tells me all I need to know about the coverage.

Not to throw water on all the positives. This race was very unusal. Lots of Cup guys making errors, Kyle out early.

The real test will be a race with long green runs, Cup guys up front. Will they still cover more of the drivers through the field. Certainly hope so?

Regarding interval. Totally agree. Intervals are to racing what all the "data" mentioned by Kang are to other sports. For example,if your favorite driver is in 15th and not being discussed are they 8 secs behind or 30? This would tell you if they were competitive or about to be lapped. You can also tell lap by lap if they are keeping up with leader or falling behind.

Totally agree about lack of "bells & whistles". Just good racing info. Please take note ESPN Cup and FOX.

Anonymous said...

ESPN did a great job. I enjoy the music.

I have a hard time understanding the problems with music and Digger. Digger is actually something my kids and my grandmother enjoy. My husband doesn't but he is ok with because it's not all about him.

Nascar has to cater to a wide group of people. Maybe we should be more understanding that the broadcasts have to appeal to all age groups.

Anonymous said...

I only saw the second half of the race, as the ESPN coverage has usually been pretty poor. I'll be there at the start for the next race, hoping they keep up the sort of work they did this week. Finally looks like time to welcome ESPN back to NASCAR

Aven said...

Anon 9:39AM-Fox trying to cater to everyone is exactly the problem. They try to please everybody and end up pleasing nobody. If you program for the true fan, you will gain more true fans. If you try to cater to everyone, you will gain nothing. The casual fan will not gain respect for the sport with the gimmicks and more dedicated fans will get frustrated and leave.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:39AM,

What bugs me is the use of the animation during green flag racing or key replays. The production has to change to show the created character and I think that is wrong.

Use him under caution, coming back from commercial or on the lap before restarts, but leave the racing for the fans.


glenc1 said...

I enjoyed the whole race coverage, from Countdown on ESPNCL to the checkered flag (and they even squeezed a decent interview in with Greg considering how much they'd run over.) We just hope this will be the blueprint for Cup races later in the season. And remember, race fans, even though we get 'switched', the same was true for those NCAAM fans looking for their game.

I think interval time is critical, especially on spread out races. Needs to be up more often. You can't tell who is moving closer to the leaders without it.

Sophia said...

Well I fell asleep watching the tape of the race KNOWING I cut off the last two laps ahead of that...lots of crashes I guess.

It's great to hear it was a broadcast so FREE of bells and whistles!!

JD I had to repeated your comment about 'this' as it is what has most of us FLUMMOXED/Aggravated.

I understand if they want a NASCAR MASCOT but timing is EVERYTHING and they have horrible timing for this 'DDD'.

Blogger Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:39AM,

What bugs me is the use of the animation during green flag racing or key replays. The production has to change to show the created character and I think that is wrong.

Use him under caution, coming back from commercial or on the lap before restarts, but leave the racing for the fans.

drpep said...

I watched from flag to flag and not once did I get mad at ESPN. This was a good broadcast,although I'm sure the on track action helped. Good job.

jimmccoy22 said...

You know a broadcast team has done a good job when you look back on a race and don't immediately think of some way the broadcast team has overshadowed the race itself. You think of the race- the way it ought to be.
Good post.

Lesley said...

J.D... Thanks for getting back to us!! Gopher hater!! Spung Bob.. S.P...

Richard in N.C. said...

bevo, Thank you. I used FOX's Race Trac for the Cup race Sunday, but I never could locate the FOX Trac they had in 2008, which I found superior to this year's Race Trac.

JD, TDP sure does MAKE the race. Thank you.