Saturday, September 19, 2009
Third Time At The Big Dance For ESPN
The memories of Brent Musburger, Suzy Kolber and Erik Kuselias have faded. Into the TV lives of NASCAR fans have come Dale Jarrett, Allen Bestwick and Nicole Manske. This season marks the third time that The Chase for the Championship is going to play-out on ABC and will be produced by the NASCAR on ESPN team.
Sunday at 10AM will start the day with Mike Massaro hosting the one hour preview edition of ESPN2's NASCAR Now. Massaro is in his first season as one of the hosts of this series. He will be joined by Boris Said in the studio while Marty Smith and Nicole Manske will both be reporting from New Hampshire.
Since ESPN made key changes to the studio talent, this series has become focused and informative. The Sunday morning preview show offers a significant amount of information without the hype of RaceDay or the scripted nature of the NASCAR Countdown show.
This year's Chase contains compelling stories and both Smith and Manske are solid at interviewing NASCAR personalities on location. Perhaps, viewers might be better served with Ricky Craven in the studio on the day of the first Chase race. The entire crew returns at 10PM to offer a one hour wrap-up show also on ESPN2.
When NASCAR goes head-to-head with the NFL at 1PM it will be Allen Bestwick leading the charge for ABC. He will be hosting the one hour version of NASCAR Countdown from the Infield Pit Studio. Bestwick will have his regular partners Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty along for both this show and for comments during the race.
Wallace is now at home in the infield for the Cup races and enjoys this role. He has the freedom to let his opinions fly without the hassle of calling an entire race from the booth. Teamed with NASCAR's unofficial cheerleader in Daugherty, Wallace enjoys stirring things up and does so on a regular basis.
While Bestwick and his team set the stage, it will once again fall to Jerry Punch to deliver a compelling live event to the ABC audience. Mike Joy called the Whelen Modified event on Saturday and then Rick Allen handled the truck series race. Punch calling the first Chase race should be the highlight of the weekend in New Hampshire.
As usual, the dependable Andy Petree and the versatile Dale Jarrett will be alongside of Punch for the race. This trio will take viewers through the final ten races and present the face of NASCAR to many new fans who may simply be tuning-in casually during NASCAR's playoffs.
It should be interesting to watch how the production team works to strike a balance between what is actually happening in the race and what is happening to the Chase drivers in the race. Those two situations are often very different.
The ESPN team has recently decided that in-car camera views and close-ups of the cars work better for High Definition TV viewers. The emphasis on these two production elements has resulted in several rather disjointed race telecasts. On the flat and crowded track in New Hampshire, neither of these elements works well.
The Whelen Modifieds started a full field of cars on Saturday. The director kept the cameras wide enough to see the racing in the field and used the low cameras to effectively convey the speed of the cars to the home viewer. The announcers followed the action on the track and kept the excitement level high. Fans who watched this race will be looking for the same on Sunday afternoon.
ESPN re-entered this sport in 2007 with a significant commitment of money, manpower and resources. This same TV team has been working all season long on the Nationwide telecasts to get ready for the big stage. Now, for the third year, it will be up to ESPN to bring the ten months of Sprint Cup Series racing to an end on a high note.
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