Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No Marty Reid In Atlanta For ESPN

This year ESPN added TV veteran Marty Reid to its NASCAR line-up for the portion of the season when the network is televising both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. Reid's new role was to handle the play-by-play announcing for the Nationwide Series races.

Reid has worked for ESPN in a variety of roles, including the IRL and NHRA events. He has a long history in off-road racing and has also been a pit reporter. Joining Reid to handle the Nationwide Series races was Randy LaJoie, who was closely associated with the series when it existed under the Busch sponsorship.

The third man in the booth was Rusty Wallace. This gave Wallace an opportunity to speak about a series in which he was directly involved. Wallace owns a two-car team that includes his colorful son Steven as one of the drivers.

This new combination worked very well for ESPN as the trio put together several enjoyable telecasts. LaJoie kept Wallace in check with his sense of humor and Reid added the excitement that so many of the ESPN NASCAR races have been lacking.

Since then, ESPN has shuffled the Nationwide Series lineup several times. This included a one-time experiment the network called "Backseat Drivers." During the recent race in Michigan, ESPN's NASCAR analysts were put in a position of handling the live telecast without a play-by-play announcer.

Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham were left alone in the booth without a trained television professional to handle the lap-by-lap information and direct the on-air traffic. Jarrett did his best to maintain control with an assist from Allen Bestwick who was located in the Infield Pit Studio.

Click here to read the comments offered by fans nationwide about the "Backseat Drivers" telecast. The telecast was rough not only for the analysts in the booth, but also for the TV director.

Without a play-by-play announcer adding the excitement and detailing what was going on, it was certainly tough to choose what pictures to show to the TV viewers at home. The director began by cutting away from the live flyover by a restored B-17 bomber to show Kyle Busch kissing his girlfriend. Things only went downhill from there.

Essentially, the MIS Nationwide Series telecast consisted of Dale Jarrett trying with all his might to fill the play-by-play role while Allen Bestwick appeared after the commercials to straighten things out for viewers. If this was ESPN's way of letting Jarrett audition for a new role, it certainly was the Nationwide Series that took it on the chin in the process.

Monday, ESPN advised the media that this one-time only experiment is now going to be repeated at the Nationwide Series race in Atlanta. Jarrett, Wallace, Petree and Evernham will once again be watching the action while telling stories about their past histories in racing. There will be no play-by-play announcer.

"Backseat Drivers" is now being referred to as a "television concept." The original idea grew from an ESPN executive who enjoyed hearing the analysts tell stories away from the track and thought perhaps that feel could be replicated during a live race telecast.

While ESPN paid the money to televise the races and can approach them any way it chooses, the real losers here are the Nationwide Series teams. ESPN has televised the series since February. The "Backseat Drivers" concept would have been better served if it was done much earlier in the season.

There are only ten races remaining in the Nationwide Series for 2009. Atlanta means primetime TV exposure for the teams under the lights on a Saturday night. ESPN's expressed interest with this format is to "give viewers the experience of sitting at home and watching the race with NASCAR experts."

Unfortunately, that eliminates the information and excitement provided by the play-by-play announcer. Try as he might, Jarrett does not have the TV training of an Allen Bestwick or Marty Reid. With the high speeds and fast-paced action of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, this experiment may send fans to the PRN or SiriusXM radio coverage of the race to get what the "Backseat Drivers" simply cannot deliver.

TDP welcomes your opinions on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly site, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

ESPN is just mystifying why not just tweak on the truck problems in N'wide & actually fix the Cup series broadcasts? NOoo... lets completely screw up the N'wide so its worse than Cup "broadcast", I just do not get it at all.

Reid cRusty & Randy are great together. Its the camera shot selection that stinks in that series.

My husband said the reason they don't do this in Cup series is - it might point out how bad Doc is in his role. Besides Cup has no Play by play so they are already there every week.

bevo said...


One more indication that there is a lack of leadership at ESPN concerning NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Just when one thinks things couldn't possibly get any worse.....

Anonymous said...

It's very simple. They are trying to tell is that it is the ESPN show.

The Loose Wheel said...

The Marty Reid formula in Nationwide, WORKS! Why screw up the only bit of booth chemistry you actually HAVE?

Yeah, we could say they are proactive and willing to make changes, but they are changing the wrong thing IMO. The "vision" in the production truck is one I cant imagine for myself. Maybe I am just a simpleton who cant comprehend the mighty vision of the Great ESPN Network.

-sigh- Are we surprised by anything they do anymore?

saltsburgtrojanfan said...
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Ziggy said...

[yawn] Man o Man. Now that I have a great picture (HD), I guess I'll have to wait for the production part (commentary/play by play) to catch up.

Hotaru1787 said...

Awww, and I was looking forward to watching this one.

PRN it is for me this weekend.

And hearing the phrase 'Backseat Driver' makes me think for that one show Speed used to have during their old 'chase block'. Anyone remember that bad excuse to hype the awful points system back in 2005 (?)

Andrew said...

Considering how Monday Night Football has changed from a professional football telecast with all-star appearances in the booth to a full-on variety show since its move to ESPN, I don't know why I'm surprised that NASCAR is slowly undergoing the same transformation. This "away from the track stories in the booth" concept is flat-out ridiculous. We already have an hour of prerace for NW to cover these stories...and it's usually a preview for the Cup race anyways. Why not use that time to showcase the NW regulars and then allow the play-by-play announcers to deliver an exciting telecast?

Oh, right. ESPN is trying to shove "entertainment" on us instead of "sports" and is delivering neither. May as well chop the first three letters off the logo.

Daly Planet Editor said...


You are welcome to repost. The points in your comment made lots of sense, but please remove the profanity. Thanks!


Andrew said...

Oh, and one more thing. I was considering flipping back and forth between the Saturday night football games and this NW race. Not anymore. After the disaster that was the last "backseat drivers" telecast and the miserable joke of a telecast yesterday, I am not watching this one.

And the cynic in me wonders if that's not just exactly what ESPN is trying to do this Saturday.

Sophia said...

eh, stinks we don't have radio for NW race.

With the continuing CLUELESS Cam DIRECTOR & ZoomCam/RoofCam/BumperCam Virus BSPN suffers from, I don't care who is in the booth. Show the race!!!!!

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Just shows the true colors of ESPN. ESPN and NASCAR does not care about the fans only the money. Oh, and JD I Do apologize if I used any bad words. i just blurted them out b/c I am so angry about how a network does not care about their customers.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks for taking the time to repost.

Anon E. Moose said...

Everyone here realizes of course, in ESPN's tiny little mind, what we do here is construed as "attacking the media". Instead of accepting the message we are trying to communicate to ESPN, they are attempting to marginalize our opinions by playing the media card.

Anonymous said...

I always get plenty more information watching the TV broadcast that I would ever do from the radio broadcast. Radio is such a limited medium.

Frankly, I never expected for a PBP announcer to manufacture "excitement". That isn't his job. For a TV PBP, he is there to convey information that isn't on the screen, not simply blurt out Edwards passes Ambrose, as that is obvious by anyone watching.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Oh, and why is the NASCAR Nationwide series in Montreal, Canada? NASCAR should not be going to Canada or Mexico for that matter. If you want to do races in Canada or mexico do exibition non-points races. NASCAR should remain in the states where their die hard fans are at.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Please return to the main page and scroll down to add your opinions on the recent Nationwide Series race in Montreal. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 5:11: You should try listening to the radio and muting the tv. You would be suprised how much more information you would get. ESPN has dropped the ball with pit strategy. I have to go to the radio to find out if my driver made a pit stop because he is not one of the 'chase drivers'. At the Bristol Nationwide race, the booth & production truck missed a wreck that was right in front of their nose, PRN was all over it. At Montral, we missed some cars go off course because ESPN was playing with their bumper cams, MRN was there.

ESPN has camera issues & a play-by-play announcer that cannot tell us what we are missing. Putting 4 people in a booth with no play-by-play announcer is not fixing the problem.

Vince said...

Well there's another race I'm going to have to miss! It's obvious ESPN just doesn't get it when it comes to broadcasting a NASCAR race. They don't have a clue.

A little off topic, but ESPN and tv related. ESPN has replaced Tony K. on Monday Night Football with Jon Gruden and the broadcast has improved 100%. So maybe there is hope that somebody in the ESPN executive offices will get a clue eventually.

Anonymous said...
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Richard in N.C. said...

Well I have 2 conflicting thoughts.

On one hand I suspect this comes from the same broadcast pro who chose to eliminate N-Now for Monday, an idea whose time has not come.

On the other hand, maybe someone at EESPN thinks DJ can be an accomplished PXP guy and this is a low-key way for EESPN & DJ to try it out. However, there is ample, daily evidence that EESPN has a very hard time recognizing quality.

Vicky D said...

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard Marty said he wasn't going to be at Atlanta next week! I'll actually be in Atlanta next weekend but won't be able to make it to the race I'll check the planeteers to find out what happened. This "test" of backseat drivers again will not work although if they put Ray in the tech garage that part would work out but I'm not hoping for much.

Dot said...

Well I see that Marty is getting the Allen Bestwick treatment. I mentioned in the other post "who thinks this idea was successful? I think it could work with three, but four? Unless they need Ray for the food runs.

Well you have to give them credit. Backseat drivers for backseat views.

@ Jo, ditto. No play by play already, too funny.

The Loose Wheel said...

Not a fan of the "Backseat" concept as they want to call it now. JD, you talked about the real losers, and your right because the Nationwide teams have lost big this season. Has anyone talked about Specialty Racing and their attempt to run every race without any sponsorship with a rookie in the car? Has Davis Motorsports really gotten a second glance? Sure, these teams aren't going to be out there battling for top 10's or wins but they are 2 examples of teams that have toughed it out in a VERY down time in the sport and have everything invested in THIS series.

Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards put people in the stands and bring dollars to the series, okay I get it. They deserve their coverage most of the time because they are dominating the series but that is no excuse to pretend they are the only 2 cars on the track. Without a PBP guy, without anyone in the booth that is exclusive to this series, who really thinks this will be a quality Nationwide broadcast? If ESPN feels their "concept" is great, use it in Cup! Thats what DJ, Andy and Ray all KNOW. Thats what they have direct connections with. The backseat concept might work with the typical Reid, Rusty, Randy, and maybe a Johnny Benson type because while Marty Reid may not have worked on the cars or driven, he has COVERED the sport and has stories of his own. Even JP proved that during rain delays.

This "concept" just seems like a way for ESPN to sit Reid when they don't "have" to use him as well as Randy. It's disappointing.

Until they are willing to put a permanent crew together that is full tilt behind the Nationwide Series, this series will continue to suffer from a coverage and exposure aspect. Just my two cents on it.

I love Atlanta, so I'll be watching, but PRN may very well get turned on early if this becomes what I think it will become.

Steve L. said...

Thanks goodness I'll be in Atlanta for both races and will have MRN in my ear the whole time.

If you're at the live race, listening to ESPN, you have NO idea what's going on but if you're listening to the radio, they'll tell you where the action is on the track in a timely manner.

I also listen to the teams on the scanner, but if I want to hear what's gong on in the race, I'll have the radio on through my scanner headphones. It helps if your're covering pit stops in the pit area.

Imagine trying to figure out what's happening while listening to ESPN, LOST!

Ken said...

This just made me think of the past weekend's race in Montreal. I liked the pre-race with Dave Burns from the pits. The pre-race had a very Camping World Truck Series Setup feel to it that was quick paced. I never thought of Burns as a host, but he did a great job. I also like Reid much better than I do Punch.

I wouldn't be surprised if they were looking to make some major changes for next season, and are trying out all of their players now. Anyone noticed that Rusty Wallace has been in the booth a lot more this season than last? It also feels like ESPN is trying to find an at-track role for Ray Evernham, but he is the odd man out with Brewer and Petree.

Next season I think a shake-up will occur as follows:

- Rusty, Brad, Alan, Andy, DJ, and Tim will be back in similar roles.

- Dave Burns will have an increased role while the other pit reporters might be shifted around a little. I like Shannon and Jamie, I can't even remember the other guy's name.

- Ray Evernham will have a decreased role, probably something similar to Boris Said's Nascar Now appearances. He just doesn't seem to fit in or have the enthusiasm of the rest of the crew.

- Marty Reid and Randy LaJoie will end up as the fill-in guys for non-companion race days.

- Jerry Punch will not be used in the same capacity he is now. Perhaps an announcer role for original ESPN motor sports programming.

I could be off, but I feel a least a few of my guesses are spot on.

Also, for Atlanta, it is possible personal issues had Reid pull out at the last minute. That type of thing does happen, even if the public isn't notified.

Daly Planet Editor said...

This is a planned telecast of the same format ESPN used at MIS.

This week, as it was at MIS, SPEED handled all the Nationwide Series practice and qualifying coverage.

ESPN was only there for the Nationwide Series race.

Perhaps, that had a little something to do with the location of this latest ESPN TV experiment.


Newracefan said...

O for crying out loud. I'm going to make other plans. Maybe I'll scrub the toilet instead of watching another disaster.

Anonymous said...

I so don't care about watching ANY racing that ESPN handles. Didn't bother with Montreal, why waste time? Atlanta? Might Tivo it, might not. Going to Richmond to see it in person. Can't leave THAT race in ESPN's hands.

The four guys calling the race can't do any worse than the current format. Sorry, but I didn't get upset when they tried it the last time. Jarrett is a trooper, Bestwick catches as many dropped balls as he can, and Evernham was notably silent last time around. Wallace? The cat has to learn some new lingo. Andy I like, but he and Evernham give much the same info, when Evernham talks. If he talks.

So I give it a big yawn and a "who cares?" ESPN kills the last half of the season for this die-hard fan.

Matt said...

I actually LIKED the telecast from Michigan and am looking forward to the race this wkend. It's not the annoucers fault if the directors can't direct, and I think the 4 guys did a great job. I think this more of an indication of ESPN's opinion of Dr. Punch. And the reason Marty is not there this wkend is because he doing an Off-Road race for ESPN, he mentioned it during the Montreal telecast. He is not getting the "Allen Bestwick treatment."

Anonymous said...

Reid let the viewers watching the NW race from Montreal that he wouldn't be in the booth at Atlanta. He will be covering the off-Road race in Crandon, WI.

Dot said...

@ Matt, thanks for the info. I FFd the race and obviously missed that. But I wouldn't put it past BSPN so my comment stands.

@ David, Bravo.

@ Ken, I like some of your ideas. Let me add one. Ray replaces Boris on NN. Doesn't Ray live on that side of the country anyway? Save BSPN some airfare.

red said...

why am i not surprised? i certainly didn't enjoy this experiment the first time it was attempted and i can see no reason why i should sit thru the second try. so, no n'wide race for me this week and i've already given up on cup races on espn.

guess that means my tv won't be stopping on espn or espn2 at all this week and my only nascar race viewing will be the trucks.

and sadly, i'm not even upset by that reality.

sure wish someone from espn could explain why they continue to dismantle one of the few successful elements of their substandard broadcasts. marty reid brings new life to n'wide? let's replace him with a 4-man booth w/no PxP guy.
yeah, THAT'S a solid business decision right there.

maybe there's confusion as to what the role of a PxP person is on a nascar broadcast. maybe THAT'S the root of the entire issue?

i dunno and frankly? i don't care any longer. guess my nascar tv time will be with fox and tnt only next year.

Anonymous said...
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Richard in N.C. said...

Bernie Madoff was smart - for many years - but that doesn't mean he was right or quality.

Anonymous said...

:( that is all

Anonymous said...

whoever made this decision should be replaced. whoever calls for all the bumper cam and in-car camera shots should be replaced, along with whoever tells the reporters what questions to ask, cause if some of these pit-road reporters come up with thier own questions they should be fired for ignorance.

why won't they use Allen Bestwick for play x play. he is the most tallented person espn has to put in the booth!!!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Let's be clear, I understand the issues and watched the Montreal race.

The decision not to have a play-by-play announcer, regardless of who that is, does not serve the teams in the series or the viewers at home.

Other than the ticker on the screen, the graphics that are added and the pictures, all the drama of the race is added through audio.

One listen to a MRN or PRN broadcast will show just how much information can be provided through effective use of the English language.

If this is a Dale Jarrett audition, then let him at it. The problem last time was no one knew when to speak.

Just imagine if they put Bestwick in the booth with three analysts. Hey, what an idea.


MRM4 said...

If this doesn't go well, there will be a lot people turning their TV's over to the Alabama-Virgina Tech football game that starts at 8:00.

Donna DeBoer said...

Disappointed that they are doing the "Backseat" thing again NOW, coming down to the wire. This and every other remaining race is important so I'm not going to miss it because of broadcaster issues. I'll just keep doing the patchwork of info sources that keeps me from getting bored, for NNS that's radio & TV combined.

GinaV24 said...

Ugh -- well, I didn't like this "concept" before, so I won't bother watching it on the 2nd try.

I like Marty in the booth. Personally, I think that Rusty should NOT be in the booth because he is an owner in this series and for me, that is a serious conflict of interest. It does work a lot better with Randy, Rusty and Marty together. This other group nonsense is just silly. I want to see the race, I want a real PXP person calling it in the booth, not a bunch of talking heads. I can get that on CNN or C-Span.

Unknown said...

My opinion is pretty simple. Half the time someone in the booth tries to 'explain' what's happening on the track, they get it wrong anyway. When we watch replays we see the real story.

At the same time, I do enjoy the stories told by the drivers and pit crews of the times they've spent racing.

So, as far as I'm concerned, you might as well leave the 'professional' play by play guys on MRN. Afterall, the need for a true "play by play" stems from the fact that radio listeners can't SEE the race!!! Give me drivers and pit crews to show/tell me what I can't already see for myself - things that they've learned through years of experience, a.k.a. tell me stories.

Fran Akridge said...

First, I enjoyed the backseat driver show, although - to be honest - I was listening and not watching.
The best TV broadcast I ever heard (cannot remember whether truck or nationwide) was one of those just one race locations - Bestwick and Mikey did it. It was like watching the race with two friends. I do confess that I think Bestwick is one of the Best and I enjoy Mikey when he is not completely off the wall.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so who else read Phil Allaway's on Frontstretch where he interviewed the ESPN folks. Regarding Dr. Punch, quote, "However, during a routine production evaluation of his work, ESPN brass felt that he was too enthusiastic on-air and basically told him to tone it down." Seriously?! JD, can you find out if this is true?
Since when would you tell your play by play guy to tone it down, and honestly, does any of us remember him being too enthusiastic anyway? If they want it toned down, why do they often show clips of a race with the MRN/PRN audio rather than Punch?

AIRPORT said...


Anonymous said...

I always get plenty more information watching the TV broadcast that I would ever do from the radio broadcast. Radio is such a limited medium.

If that's the case, then ESPN is doing a miserable job, because radio gives us more information about the race than TV does.

The "limited" radio folks always manage to tell us what's going no further back in the field, why people are off the track, why they're a lap down, who has moved up (and why).

If TV give us so much more information, then why can't they manage to do that, too?

(Answer: Because ESPN doesn't care.)

Anonymous said...

Oddly, ESPN does not seem to think that having a bunch of guys sit around and talk football or baseball is a good idea during those games' telecasts.

Just another sign that the current ESPN management doesn't understand--nor does it WANT to understand--NASCAR racing.

Anonymous said...
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Daly Planet Editor said...


Next time lower case please. Thanks.