Friday, May 22, 2009
ESPN Stops In SPEED's Backyard
Last weekend it was the All-Star race and the TV activity surrounding that event. This weekend, SPEED is once again the dominant TV network at the Lowe's Motor Speedway when it comes to the amount of hours on the air. That seems to be fitting, as SPEED's new headquarters and studios are literally right down the street from the speedway.
Saturday brings SPEED back once again to cover the Sprint Cup Series early practice, Nationwide Series qualifying and the Cup Happy Hour. Then and only then does ESPN step-up and originate live coverage of the Nationwide Series race at 7PM ET on ESPN2.
Dale Jarrett is back from his vacation, so it is only fitting that Rusty Wallace enjoys the weekend off. NASCAR pit reporters Jamie Little and Vince Welch are working ABC's coverage of the Indy 500, so Mike Massaro will step-in to team with Shannon Spake and Dave Burns on pit road.
As usual, Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree will handle the commentary with Jarrett, once he is done working the pre-race show with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty.
Marty Smith has been the face of ESPN during these back-to-back race weekends as the network has only originated live reports for its NASCAR Now news program. As viewers have seen, Smith has been busy working stories ranging from Tony Stewart's first win as an owner to the continuing saga of suspended driver Jeremy Mayfield.
Now, it will be Punch's turn to finally lead ESPN onto the air with a live NASCAR race telecast from LMS. The intensity of this Nationwide Series race is hard to top. Cup drivers having fun, Nationwide regulars trying to impress and young drivers with absolutely nothing to lose make for a volatile NASCAR cocktail.
There are many good parts to ESPN's Nationwide coverage this season, including the best pit road camera coverage and the outstanding graphics package. The downsides have included the return of a suggested script for the races and the continued tough time of Punch in the booth. Now in year three, it is very hard to watch a great guy like Punch stuck in the play-by-play position.
As TV viewers know from the All-Star race, LMS makes great pictures at night under the original Musco track lighting system. Low-level infield lights shine into mirrors to illuminate the track without tall light towers blocking the view of the fans.
With the COT cars parked in the Cup garage, this Nationwide event promises to be fast-paced and intense from the start. While Bestwick will surely set the stage, it is going to be up to Punch to capture that enthusiasm and continue it throughout the broadcast.
During this time of the season, the NASCAR on ESPN team seems to just show-up for the Nationwide races and then leave town. The TV team will next have to wait-out the TNT gang before the ESPN/ABC coverage of both top NASCAR series begins down the stretch in July.
So, SPEED kicks-off Saturday at 2PM and leads the NASCAR fans directly into the ESPN2 Nationwide Series telecast at 7PM. The complete weekend TV schedule is located on the right side of the TDP homepage.
There will be a new post up as we live blog the Nationwide race, but please feel free to add your comments on the SPEED coverage or the ESPN TV team to this post. TDP is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by on this holiday weekend.