Friday, August 21, 2009

Live Blogging The Nationwide Series From Bristol, TN (ESPN2 - 7:30PM)

The "A team" returns to the Nationwide Series on Friday night for ESPN. All hands are on deck as the two Bristol night races hit the ESPN family of TV networks on consecutive nights.

Allen Bestwick will start the coverage with the NASCAR Countdown show from the Infield Pit Studio. He will be joined by Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty, both just back from their Wednesday trip to the White House and an audience with the President.

Wallace is deeply involved in the Nationwide Series and has been offering the best information for TV viewers on the series. Bestwick always gets his facts straight and Daugherty is a NASCAR cheerleader, so the pre-race should be solid.

Once the action starts, Jerry Punch will return to call the race after an absence. Last week, ESPN did not use a play-by-play announcer at Michigan. Marty Reid has been calling the races prior to that since ESPN started the Sprint Cup coverage.

Punch will be joined by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the booth. These two have been working well together this season and have become solid at jumping in and trying to add their own excitement to the race telecast when Punch lags behind.

On pit road will be the NASCAR on ESPN foursome that has been taking their lumps from the fans. Dave Burns, Vince Welch, Jamie Little and Shannon Spake are going to be dealing with some very loud conditions and cramped quarters.

As I mentioned last week, tempers are tight this time of the year and sometimes the pit reporters get the wrath of the drivers when they ask a "how do you feel about that" kind of question. ESPN struggled in the pits back in year one. It would be a shame if this weekend gets things pointed right back in the same direction.

At Bristol, TV viewers want to watch cars racing at them and not away from them. It take a lot of work from the director to continually cut the cameras in a pattern that make sense to the viewers. There has also been a tendency to keep the action low and not insert high camera shots to keep a perspective on the track.

Once the sun goes down, the pictures really get good and the action picks up. This track does not lend itself to in-car camera views live, but they are great for replays. The fixed "speed shots" also do not work well because the laps are just so fast. The simple challenge for the TV team in the production truck is to keep ahead of the action on the track.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Nationwide Series coverage on ESPN2. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts with other NASCAR fans.

Play-By-Play Announcer Returns For ESPN In Bristol, TN

Last week in Michigan, ESPN experimented with a live NASCAR Nationwide Series telecast that featured four analysts in the booth and no play-by-play announcer. The reviews were mixed, but ESPN was clear that this was a one time experiment. Click here to review the TDP reader comments.

Friday night the NASCAR on ESPN telecast returns to the normal format, but not with the popular Nationwide Series team of Marty Reid, Rusty Wallace and Randy LaJoie. Instead, the network will use Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree to call the race.

Wallace will be a member of the pre-race show along with Brad Daugherty and host Allen Bestwick from the Infield Pit Studio. While this has been a good move for Wallace on the Sprint Cup Series races, he has served the network quite well up in the booth for the Nationwide Series events.

Reid and LaJoie just love to give Wallace a hard time as certain events unfold on the track. The vast majority of the time, those events involve Rusty's son Steven or teammate Brendan Gaughan who make up the RWR Nationwide Series teams. Credit goes to Rusty who has been more than tough enough to take the ribbing and keep right on going, no matter how much his wallet had just been dented.

This on-air dynamic has been fun to watch as it is pushed along by the jovial personality of LaJoie. Reid is a professional who keeps the information flowing and lets the analysts do their jobs. This irreverent mix is perfect for the Nationwide Series as it continues to search for its own TV personality.

Reid, Wallace and LaJoie did not cower to the Carl and Kyle show in this series and pointed out the efforts of all the teams on the track as the racing unfolded. Reid was also the first announcer this season to be honest with the fans where the numerous start-and-park cars were concerned.

The challenge for Punch is to ramp-up his excitement level to match the anticipated hard racing on Friday night from the drop of the green flag. The new restart rules are going to be something to see at Bristol. As Mike Joy on the Whelen Modified and Rick Allen on the Camping World Truck Series races proved, this track generates excitement for TV viewers when the play-by-play announcer is on his game.

As usual on so many Fridays, it will be SPEED starting the action with Nationwide Series practice at 10:30AM. Steve Byrnes, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond will then stick around to call both sessions of Sprint Cup practice beginning at noon ET. That trio will top off the day with Nationwide Series qualifying at 4PM.

Before calling the Nationwide race, Punch and company will first handle Sprint Cup Series qualifying at 5:30PM on ESPN2. Nicole Manske will give the ESPN team a breather at 7PM as she hosts an edition of NASCAR Now from the other Bristol.

Bestwick then leads the ESPN2 team onto the air at 7:30PM with the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show and Punch takes over to call the action at 8PM. The actual green flag is scheduled for 8:13PM.

TDP will be live blogging this event and have a post up for your TV-related comments immediately after the race. In the meantime, please feel free to leave your opinion on the topics mentioned above.

This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.