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.
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Thanks again and happy posting.