Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nationwide Series TV Booth Will Look Different At Watkins Glen

This is the first season that ESPN has brought in a different play-by-play announcer to handle the Nationwide Series telecasts down the stretch. It was unfair to expect Jerry Punch to handle the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races, qualifying sessions and practices during the ESPN portion of the Cup Series TV schedule.

Marty Reid was available after ESPN reduced the number of IRL races the network would carry. Reid came in and immediately set a tone of excitement and good humor during the past several races. It was Rusty Wallace, who owns a Nationwide Series multi-car team and Randy LaJoie, a former Nationwide Series champ who joined Reid for those telecasts. That is one of the more infamous pictures of the early Wallace hairdo that fans love to see pictured above.

This trio clicked immediately and the results were fun to watch. LaJoie just loves poking fun at Wallace on the air and Wallace is thick-skinned enough to take it. Whether it was Steven Wallace spinning out the leader under caution or coining "Rusty bumps" as the term for the Iowa Speedway track divots, LaJoie was having fun on TV.

Wallace may not be the most articulate guy, but Reid and LaJoie brought his outspoken side to the surface and Wallace jumped right in with his opinions and analysis of the racing action. Once banished to the Sprint Cup infield after one season as lead analyst, Wallace provided exactly what viewers needed to hear on these telecasts. Strong opinions that make the Nationwide Series interesting again.

This weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races are together in Watkins Glen. While Reid will continue to call the action for practice, qualifying and the race it will be Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside him in the TV booth. Wallace once again will be downstairs in the ESPN Pit Studio with Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty. LaJoie will be in the ESPN studios on Monday for NASCAR Now.

What a shame that ESPN did not decide to keep the dynamic of Reid, Wallace and LaJoie together. Jarrett and Petree are focused on the Sprint Cup Series and rightly so at this time of the season. Perhaps, this is something that could be considered for 2010.

Reid will have another opportunity to make a Nationwide Series event something that can attract fans on its own merit. From the start, Reid broke a lot of ESPN rules. He does not play the "Kyle and Carl" card, he mentions almost every start-and-park car on the lap they "break down" and he puts the Nationwide regulars front and center continuously during the race telecasts.

ESPN President George Bodenheimer originally declared the Nationwide Series as "a diamond in the rough" of the larger NASCAR TV contract. For the past two seasons, that diamond has been neglected while the glow of the Sprint Cup Series drivers attracted almost all of ESPN's efforts.

Now, there is an opportunity to change all that and the momentum is building. Reid and company start with final practice Friday at 5:30PM ET. They return for qualifying on Saturday at 10AM. Then, Bestwick opens with the pre-race later on Saturday at 2:30PM and the green flag falls shortly after 3PM. All of the coverage is on ESPN2. Reid may be the best thing that has happened to the Nationwide Series in a long time. TDP will live blog the race on Saturday.

In the meantime, please feel free to offer comments on the topics in this column. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

It was unfair to expect Jerry Punch to handle the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races, qualifying sessions and practices during the ESPN portion of the Cup Series TV schedule.

I bet Mike Joy could do it without missing a beat.

PS Nice fro on Rusty!

Daly Planet Editor said...

The reason I included that in the column was because SPEED splits with Fox and then TNT the practice and qualifying coverage until ESPN arrives.

Steve Byrnes has been the familiar face splitting time with Joy in the booth.

For the last two years, ESPN had Punch do everything and it was just too much. Great to get Marty Reid on the scene.

Rusty has been around a long time and racing is his life. Love him or hate him, you will probably know where he stands on an issue.



Walter said...

Mr Editor -
In the words of Tony Soprano's crew, Rusty and Lajoie not in the booth this week ....Ooooh! Maybe the suits need some encouragement to re-visit their priorities for the Nationwide shows it me or do the Cup drivers rely more strategy of the crew chief, while the Nationwide drivers rely more on pure driving skills.

glenc1 said...

wow, that photo is a scream. I will be at Watkins Glen starting tomorrow. Funny, but because of the timing of silly season, stuff seems to happen around now. I'll be checking in when I can, to see how the broadcasts are going. Hopefully it'll be as interesting on tv as it is in person (what can I say, I live in hope....)

Anonymous said...

It's "Rusty Bumps" not Wallace Bumps

Anonymous said...

I used to be a Rusty fan in the 80s but I got tired of his attitude and moved onto Awesome Bill.

Flash forward to the NW race at ORP. Rusty was his old opinionated self. The difference was that his enthusiasm shown through, and Randy's ribbing let him take himself a little less seriously. It was the second thing in two weeks that raised my stock in Mr. Wallace.

The first happened a week before Rusty, his brother and his son came to a short track in the northeast to race after some arduous duty in St. Louis the night before. Because of weather, their plane was diverted overnight and didn't arrive until 5:30 the morning of the race. Nonetheless, all three were there in good humour. Kenny and Steve catching up on the Saturday practice that they missed and Rusty prepping for his grand marshall duties.

Rusty came out for a pre-race interview for the fans, did the driver intros with the track announcer, did some pxp in the booth and signed a bunch of autographs. By all accounts of my behind the scene contacts, he was gracious and enthusiastic.

I personally think all three of them were nuts to sign up for that weekend schedule, but I'll give them all a tip of the hat for doing it. As JD said, he lives for this stuff. They all do.

Sophia said...

Well at this point I have no strong opinion on the booth part. I think many booths this season have had great potential. If there is fun in the booth that's a BONUS.

Without the TV Director showing wide shots of racing around the track, it will be scream at the tv moments. At least for the CUP race. I will try to watch this as I do not have MRN access for the NW.

Like hearing the story of the Wallace brothers. Say what you want about the guys but they LOVE what they do. I follow KW on Twitter and he is a busy boy! He and many drivers give back to the smaller tracks and that's all good.

Word veri

rhymes with Dumbo, lol

P.S. Did Blogger just change something? My edit is now a POP-Up box? Weird!

Dot said...

Reid, DJ & AP in the booth? I can't wait to see and hear that. I bet DJ & AP are excited too.

I did like Reid, Rusty and Randy together, though. Maybe 2010 BSPN will get it right.

Can I just say that I'm glad the fro look never made a come back after the 70s. Unless you count Phil Spector.

@ dear Sophia, I got the box too. I like it. No scrolling to edit. Thanks JD.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR should really look into making more drivers wear their hair like Rusty does in this photo. I bet the soft cushion it provides is safer than the full-head helmets and HANS devices they currently wear. Clearly Boris Said is onto something -- ditch helmets and bring back the Rustyhead look!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks for the correction. "Rusty bumps" it is!

Anonymous said...

Randy Lajoie and Ralph Sheheen have been the really positive changes in the booth this season. I wish that they would give Rusty and Kenny Wallace permanent vacations!

Anonymous said...

It continues to astonish me that ESPN refuses to put Bestwick in the booth.
Unbelievable, just unbelieveable

I'll be doing yardwork Sunday

Vicky D said...

And the NW series lost another full time driver this week when Mike Bliss was axed over a cup driver. It's very disappointing to fans of the series and Mike isn't very happy about it either.

LuckyForward said...

It really doesn't matter who ESPN puts in the booth. It's hard to hear them over the continual din of driver talking to crew chief on the radio, which adds NOTHING to the broadcast experience.

Anonymous said...

Look I'm no fan of Mike Bliss but to see him get tossed for yet ANOTHER Cup driver coming in late in the game is a crying shame. The Lagasse situation too.

I'm a fan of anyone who ribs Rusty Wallace. NNS commentators have been better than Cup. So has the racing.

Photojosh said...

One big problem area that ESPN could pretty easily fix is the announcers in the booth/infield. It's obvious to all of us that some of these guys do better in some areas than others. All it needs is someone at ESPN with the guts to stand up and say, "here's what needs to be done". However, I don't get that ESPN rewards thinking outside the box.

It's really too bad, because the other issues that seem to plague ESPN's Nascar coverage are likely to be much harder to fix (the TV camera direction problem and the "look for a controversy and follow the chasers 98% of the time" plan). But if a good booth/infield team was in place for both Cup and Nationwide, at least we could all say "well ESPN's got problems but I sure like listening to the guys in the booth".

Heck, that's what a lot of the typical TNT/Fox naysayers do. Sure, there were problems with constant promos and all that. But the booth guys made up for a lot of the junk.

It's one of those "a little goes a long way" things that ESPN probably won't ever get. But I continue to hold out hope since they at least have the successful re-tooling of Nascar Now to prove that they CAN fix something if they want to.

darbar said...

I never realized that Rusty graduated from the Angela Davis school of hair. That's some sorry afro, Rusty.

As for the race coverage, I absolutely hate when ESPN takes over coverage on the support activities for the Cup races. Speed does it right when talking covering practice and qualifying. ESPN's coverage just doesn't compare.

Anonymous said...
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Newracefan said...

ESPN gets something right and the mess with it yet the something wrong stays the same. Am I missing something here?