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.
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