Saturday, September 5, 2009

Your Turn: Nationwide Series From Atlanta On ESPN2

Saturday evening from Atlanta, ESPN offered its second edition of "Backseat Drivers."

The Nationwide Series race was called by four ESPN analysts in the broadcast booth. Allen Bestwick remained in the Infield Pit Studio during the race to offer information and updates out of the commercial breaks. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Center during the race.

Featured on this telecast was Dale Jarrett, who is clearly the senior analyst for ESPN. He was the unofficial leader in the broadcast booth. Joining Jarrett was Rusty Wallace, Ray Evernham and Andy Petree.

This format featured the four analysts talking among themselves without the play-by-play announcer. That person usually offers the specific lap-by-lap information and also called the exciting action on the track for the viewers.

The four analysts all contributed to the telecast. They were aided by a very different video approach by ESPN. There were very limited in-car camera views, few close-ups and many uses of TV technology that NASCAR on ESPN fans have not normally seen from the network. The shift in the TV directing of the race was significant.

The pre-race show was offered on ESPN Classic as live college football covered almost all of the thirty minutes allocated for that show. Both of ESPN's regional games ended in time for viewers to catch the entire race on the assigned ESPN2 channel.

This post is your turn to offer a review of the ESPN2 coverage of the Nationwide Series race from Atlanta on ESPN2. To add your TV-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks.


TexasRaceLady said...

A surprisingly good broadcast tonight. The camera direction was decent --- unfortunately, the race itself was lacking a bit of excitement.

The normally overused in car cams/bumper cams/roof cams were not in evidence.

Needed a true PxP in booth, but the 4 did a good job.

Had to scramble for the pre-race --- my TV package was suddenly missing Classic. But, a few frantic minutes on the phone got me up-graded. :-)

PammH said...

As has been the case most of the yr, race really sucked until the last 25 laps of the race...sad, really. I did enjoy the booth, but esp the camera work tonite! Please keep it up-we like the wiiiide shots! Best car won today, which is not always the case...nice to see. And btw, Cryle did a very decent interview on PRN. It's a Pod Person, I'm sure!

Andrew said...

Allen Bestwick handled 80% of the PxP, and he wasn't even in the booth. Please put him in the booth for the Chase, ESPN.

The four analysts talking amongst themselves made the race feel like a long practice session instead of a race, though the race itself truly wasn't very exciting.

The best part of the race (aside from AB) is that ESPN was getting much better at NOT using their "HD toys" and instead using wide camera angles to show more of the action. They were also searching (vainly) for battles for position. Kudos!

All in all, it was a step ahead, but much work remains to be done.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Have to give credit tonight to the ESPN Director for a enjoyable telecast.

Few in-cars, few bumper-cams and almost no super close-ups.

Enjoyable pictures set the tone.


Sean said...

This backseat drivers broadcast was better than the last one. The race was terrible, but the analysis was pretty good. Rusty really tailed off at the end when he started openly cheering for Harvick(who he has a partnership with). Kyle wasn't mad about finishing 2nd for once, and even congratulated Kevin and Delana in Victory Lane

Anonymous said...

The Good:
- Best camera work of the season. They avoided overuse of in-car cameras and tight shots.
- Breakout of Andy Petree and Ray Evernham. The 4 of them worked much better tonight compared to Michigan
- Allen Bestwick. Just when it seemed the 4 in the booth were losing control, AB was here to update the S&P, recap the race, update the problems, read promos & constant smooth transitions to the booth. Honsety with the weather was also appreciated

The Bad:
- Pre-race chaos. College football went long, as expected. This should not be an issue anymore in the third year of this deal.
- Lack of leadership. The 4 in the booth worked well together, but at times things would slowly spiral out of control & there was nobody to direct their chatter and group it back together. A play-by-play man is needed. Allen Bestwick did half the job in the infield studio. It is time for him to go back up and join Andy and Dale.
- Tim Brewer. His baseball bat segment before the race was confusing to begin a race with. As the race dragged on, it became obvious there would be little banged-in fenders and his segment became pointless. He was barely used in the broadcast afterwards. The tech center is an unnecessary expense. Larry Mac & Jeff Hammond did hours of NASCAR coverage without a cutaway car and managed to explain everything clearly.
- Not showing EVERY car finish: A common courtesy to all the teams. Since 75% of the field was not a factor all night & never mentioned, the respectful thing to do is show every car finish. Instead, fans of David Gilliland, Justin Allgaier, Scott Wimmer & Jason Leffler are left in the dark. If you were a 'casual fan', you probrably have no idea about the cars 13th on back.

The Ugly:
- BAD, BAD race. Only 13 competitive cars (within 2 laps of the leader).

Overall Braodcast:
**** / *****

Overall Race:

Anonymous said...

Kudos to ESPN today for a nice coverage of the race with good camera directing.
The "Backseat drivers" could use a play by play man but I thought they did ok.
Pit Reporters expecially the girls needs to ask better questions.
The racing itself today wasn't great at all.Nascar,get rid of the tapered spacers.
Overall, it was a good coverage and I hope ESPN step it up even more for the cup race tomorrow.

kbaskins said...

I thought the camerawork and directing were excellent tonight. One of ESPN's best efforts this year. The pictures were awesome in HD, the tight shots were held to a minimum and were used appropriately. Too bad they didn't focus more on the non-Cup racers. Still, it was a prodigious improvement. Thanks, folks in the truck! We appreciated it!

The "backseat drivers" in the broadcast booth were much better than their inaugural outing, but I still prefer an actual play-by-play person. Unless it's Dr. Punch. Play-by-play-by-committee just doesn't do it for me, but I'll take the collective over Dr. Punch any day if that's the choice offered.

This broadcast was pretty darn good, too bad the race was pretty darn bad. That's not ESPN's fault, though.


The Loose Wheel said...

Solid. Given 2009 as a whole for ESPN, this was a B+ broadcast.

Compared to TNT and FOX's efforts, its still a C+ B-

I really wish there was more depth through the field. In stories and showing battles. Even for guys that are a lap down if you can at least show some action, the race doesn't seem to be AS boring.

Camera work and production were actually very good. Major step in the right direction, keep building on it ESPN! Very pleasantly surprised by that.

The booth was better than it was at Michigan, its just simply too many guys in the booth IMO. AB, DJ, and AP is a home run, AB showed that again tonight getting everyone up to speed out of breaks. Even stumbling a bit early he maintained composure and moved forward to his usual professional self the rest of the telecast.

Just not liking how the race has become a 4 or 5 guy show. Leffler was pretty much blown off tonight, as were many other regulars. Sure the argument can be made to run better, but there was not alot going on up front at times and it would have been a great chance to talk about the back end of the top 10 in Nationwide points, even the top 20 as a whole. There are stories there to be told and a dedicated NW booth would probably be the best fit for this goal. The Cup broadcast crew gets lost in the Cup drivers because that's their primary goal. The 3 R's would be great full-time!

Actually looking forward to Richmond as it is my favorite racetrack. Hope they can build on this for tomorrow and on through the season.

Not setting any world records here, but the effort is appreciated.

red said...

well, i listened on prn and checked out the espn camera work every so often. keep the booth on mute b/c i wasn't happy with the first round of "backseat driver" and didn't want to try a second time. i don't think that was a bad choice on my part. i maintain that a broadcast booth NEEDS a PxP guy who will step forward and manage the chaos. sounds as if bestwick, once again, filled that role.

prn presented a great race: lots of battles, even after cars started getting lapped. i certainly received more info from the radio team than from the espn team. (altho' i muted the sound, the always-amusing closed captioning gave me an idea of what was being discussed.) i get that the two media are different but to hear an exciting race while watching one on tv that was less than exciting is just a big disconnect. which is the current state of nascar racing and what is the role that tv and radio play on shaping the publlic's perception of that? if i just listen to the radio, i'm convinced that the racing is as good as ever. if i watch espn? not so much.

so many differences bewteen the two presentations but, for me, the better choice was to stay with prn. now the decision is: what to do tomorrow night?

The Loose Wheel said...

Buschseries, glad you mentioned the tech center thing. I mentioned that exact thing during practice!

Anonymous said...

While ESPN left 15 minutes early, Jeff Gluck said on Twitter:

"I am here on pit road, Michael Annett looks to be in rough shape from heat exhaustion. Sitting on the wall. Called for ambulance"

Hope he is ok.

red said...

gluck's follow-up tweet:
"Annett walked to ambulance under his own power but looks shaky and grey."

is anyone else amazed at just how much info we get via twitter?

Daly Planet Editor said...


No one from ESPN officially communicating about NASCAR on Twitter.

Nothing during the college football issues today.

Such a shame, remember asking Kyle Petty questions while he was on TNT live via Twitter and he would answer them?

Patrick said...

Much improved broadcast. Better camera choices. Less in-car cameras (good thing). Evernham really stepped up his game. The booth guys did a good job, but still need a play-by-play guy (please, give us Bestwick if Marty isn't available). There were some awkward silences and the transition to commercials were a abrupt or sloppy.
I'm happy for the improvement. Too bad the race itself wasn't any better. I'd like to see this level of improvement through the remainder of the season.
Good job to all with your fantastic comments here and in the live blogging. See you in the next thread.

red said...

jd, a sad fact. i understand that the various sports feel compelled to control the message and the brand but one of the attractions of nascar for us fans is the availability of the competitors and reporters. taking it away -- or diminishing it -- so that corporate can make certain all tweets are "on brand" is contrarian and doesn't help build loyalty to the sport -- or the channel.

as we've discussed, there are now so many options open to the race fan watching at home. i multi-task aggressively, mostly b/c i can't get info from the broadcast partner. i know i did FAR less of that with tnt and i do almost nothing but multi-tasking w/espn.

this strategy is short-sighted, in my opinion, and shows a lack of understanding about a very important dynamic in nascar: the personal connection that a fan feels to the sport, the competitors and the reporters.

(ps so who won the bet between marty smith and mike davis anyway? i'm not a college football fan.)

PammH said...

red-I'm not sure either who won between MS & MD, but I's soooo hopin' there will be pics!! Sorry OT, JD.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Pammmmh, I think it's halftime.

Anonymous said...

As much bashing as ESPN takes on this forum, they have been hyping the heck out of the Atlanta race during the Alabama-VT game tonight. They even interviewed Denny Hamlin on the sidelines - and they just gave the Nationwide results during the football game...

As for the coverage tonight, I still think it's better than their usual coverage, but having Bestwick continue to bring them back from commercial just seems odd and it doesn't really work.

The Loose Wheel said...

OT: reporting Danica to NW next year with SHR support...

Okay, so not completely off topic, just found it interesting.

Dot said...

It is too bad that the race wasn't better tonight. Doesn't it figure? Good coverage, bad race. Good race, bad coverage.

My hopes aren't up for tomorrow. As we've seen in the past, good NW coverage, bad CUP coverage. And, don't they show all the toys during the CUP races?

If they are grooming DJ for PXP wouldn't putting AB in the booth be the logical choice? Throw him in there for a couple of races so DJ can see how it's really done.

Spaw said...

Allen Bestwick. Allen Bestwick. Let me repeat that.....Allen Bestwick. And while I'm on the subject, Allen Bestwick. Of course I should also mention Allen Bestwick. Then again, there's Allen Bestwick.

Direction was very good and the analyst gimmick still plays well but what can continually make or break is PxP and for that I would suggest Allen Bestwick. Short of that, I might alternately suggest Allen Bestwick.

To ANY NETWORK that has the sense to extricate urine from high-top footwear.....Please consider Allen Bestwick for PxP.


Anonymous said...

Could I just mention.....


brad said...

The race action was rather "uneventful" giving the ESPN gang a tough job for the night. Saying that I must say a PxP person is needed for races. letting the guys talk is alright but a traffic cop is needed to direct them along. Why AB is in the infield studio is a mystery to most of us. I understand not bringing in Marty Reid for just a race telecast but not putting AB in the booth didn't make sense he was going to be there anyway. Overall a pretty good visual broadcast from ESPN but still not what a race telecast should be.

brad said...

By the way for those that care. Bama won so Mike Davis won the bet. Already feel for Marty. Sorry JD will try to stay on topic tonight.

Hero-At-Large said...

1)My big complaint: Hire directors that understand and are interested in racing. It happens all the time and it happened last night; two drivers are battling for position. The camera follows them into the turn and as they are going around the turn, a third slower car comes into the picture. The screen switches to the 1st place driver cruising around the track. The story is switched before the conclusion. You have only told ¾ of story, a third factor is going to be added to increase the dramatic substance of the story and then, wham, we cut to the leader cruising around with noting exciting to really talk about. The director is more interested on changing the visual aspect of broadcast, resulting in the loss of an exciting story and the demonstration of driver skill and quick decision making.

2) Suggestion: When we get down to the last few laps, like 3or 4 on a large track and maybe 8 or so on a short track, why can’t the leader board running at the top of the screen be reduced to only showing the top ten on the track. The viewer will be able to quickly maintain a quick assessment of the race. The drivers in the back of the field are not going to change much, since some are not even on the track, and most people are not looking to see who came in 24th until after the race. They are concentrating more on what is happening in the top ten area. If you don’t believe me just look at your broadcast. The camera being shown is usually around the top 3 or so. Heck, you could even sell it to a sponsor. Call it the “The Rapid Track Leader Board”, or something.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

I have a suggestion for ESPN. Why don't you stop saying whatever series at Whatever track (example: NASCAR Nationwide Series at Bristol) and just say the actual races name (example: Carfax 400).

3KillerBs said...

Its hard to judge based on what Kyle Busch accurately summed up as a "non-race", but I think the camera work was better this time.

The guys chatting in the booth at least kept me awake during some BORING racing.

GinaV24 said...

We didn't have tickets to the Nwide race so I watched it on TV. The camera work was much better than it has been, so that was a big help. It's just a shame it was a boring race with one car covering the entire field.

I didn't have a choice but to listen to the 4 guys broadcast. It was better than the 1st time -- it seemed to me that AB directed traffic as much as anything else.