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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17 comments:

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, It occurs to me that NASCAR really saves EESPN's bacon. What else could ABC/EESPN carry in the fall on Sunday that would have a chance of drawing a major audience against the NFL?

Jim said...

I'm glad someone is keeping track of the start-and-park platoon which is no less than fraud by NASCAR.
Another huge fraud involves a yellow flag, waved when Kyle Busch is too far ahead of the field, or to prevent Matt Kenseth from going a lap down.
NASCAR racing doesn't need such chicanery.
I've been a fan since Lee Petty was driving and Richard was a spectator!

Anonymous said...

Remember that the TV folks like to see positive comments to go along with the negative ones. Mom always told me to find something nice to say about everyone.
So bring a little sweet with the sour for our friends at ESPN. Remember, we're stuck with them for 5 more chases after this one.

bevo said...

Not a good omen watching NHRA qualifying last night, storyline was fighting and they played it for all they could. Today it wil be chase, chase, chase and more chase.

yankeegranny said...

Wasn't Happy Hour supposed to be broadcast live on ESPN2 yesterday? Instead we got some third-rate football game. Or was the re-broadcast at 6:00 all that was intended to be broadcast. God, how I miss DW and Fox. What a way to drive fans away. ESPEEEEEN is the pits.

Anonymous said...

ABC/ESPU is too much for me. I will listen to the 'real' race on MRN and know what is going on all around the track. The TV clowns are so keyed in on their own agenda that we see little and hear far too much that does not pertain to the race. Yes, it will be all about the chase guys. NASCAR wake up and smell the gasoline fumes. We are tired of being force fed lousy coverage on ESPU. Punch needs to retire.

Tom said...

Anyone want to predict when JP will say "Cousin Carl" for the first time today? I have the over-under at lap 10.

Newracefan said...

Tom I'll take the under

Tom said...

Just a note for Anon 11:10...
Today's race is a PRN broadcast. Different styles with the on-air talent, but the descriptions of what's going on all around the track will be just as effective.
MRN is back at Dover next week.

Beatingadeadhorseagain said...

What is the over/under for "fifty-year old Mark Martin?

bevo said...

No MRN today, NH is now a PRN race. Lesser of two evils I guess...

Anonymous said...

Great comment on SPEED RaceDay just now about the drivers outside chase. "If you want your publicity, go out and win a race".

Andrew said...

@Deadhorse - 5 minutes into the pre-race.

Dot said...

We might as well bet on "sailing" and "young man", too.

Dot said...

Watching RD. I like Hermie at the desk. Sure has mellowed Jimmie out.

Maybe Kenny can interview drivers.

bevo said...

"If you're just joining us" - lap 5 :)

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up for the Sprint Cup Series race coverage from New Hampshire.

JD