Sunday, October 25, 2009
Update: We are going to leave this post open for your post-race comments. Just click on the comments button below. Thanks fans!
Here we go with a very big challenge for the NASCAR on ESPN production team. The Cup race is going head-to-head with NFL football and it is going to be a tough challenge.
Allen Bestwick will anchor a thirty-minute version of NASCAR Countdown beginning at 1PM ET. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty will be with Bestwick in the Infield Pit Center. Pit reporters are Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage.
While Jimmie Johnson is the big story, there has been a lot of NASCAR news during the week that involves changes in personnel and teams. It should be interesting to watch what topics and interviews are selected for the pre-race show.
Jerry Punch has to call the action on a very long day at a very short track. That recipe has not proven to be a good one where ESPN is concerned. Punch will no doubt be assisted very actively by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree as the race goes on.
Action happens fast at this track as the straights are quick and cars side-by-side though the flat corners almost always results in some rubbing. The ESPN team has struggled with both caution and green flag pitstops. This is not a good place to have that happen.
The race off pit road may well wind-up deciding the event and missing the action for full-screen coverage of only one car is going to make the TV team pay a high price. ESPN needs to hold the triple-split all the way through the caution flag stops and put all green flag stops in a double video box so the race can be seen.
There is real potential for things to get confused very quickly on TV as ESPN keeps the spotlight on the Chase drivers regardless of what is happening on the track. This should be a fascinating race to watch from a TV perspective.
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This is a tough weekend for the NASCAR TV gang. Rain washed out almost everything on Saturday and left Martinsville a muddy mess. There are three hours of pre-race shows before the 1:43PM green flag.
NASCAR Now on ESPN at 10AM will feature Nicole Manske with Boris Said in the studio. Reporting from Martinsville will be Marty Smith. Perhaps, Said is not the short-track expert one might like to discuss Martinsville, but maybe his testing experience will serve him well.
Manske has lots of topics to choose from as the NASCAR news this week has been all over the map. From Elliott Sadler in a Ford at Talladega to the continuing dominance of Hendrick Motorsports equipment, the hour should be easy to fill.
Smith is in Martinsville and it will be interesting to see if he responds to the Jeremy Mayfield appearance on ESPN's Outside the Lines this morning. Smith has been solid for ESPN all season long and continues to navigate his way through the twisted world of the NASCAR garage.
This preview program is better when Ricky Craven is in the studio, although Said has certainly improved his TV skills. Craven is the outstanding studio analyst for ESPN and the network better lock him up for next season.
The franchise is up next for SPEED. RaceDay is as close to a Sprint Cup Series points race as the network will ever get. The Daytona twins and the All-Star race are nothing compared to an entire season of two-hour pre-race shows.
When this program was moved an hour earlier to avoid TV network conflicts, it changed rather dramatically. There is now little opportunity to build-up the excitement as the race gets set to begin. Instead, lethargic drivers step out of buses for interviews and the driver's meeting is often the highlight from the infield.
This put the focus back on the main panel that consists of host John Roberts with commentators Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace. As we documented last week, things are fractured right now as the panel does not know whether to have fun or address serious issues. The resulting mix is a mess.
One minute Wallace is table dancing and the next Spencer is calling NASCAR out on a very serious issue. Both men have good opinions on various racing topics, but they have stopped interacting and now speak individually to the fans. "Let me tell you something" is heard by Wallace almost every time he tries to change the tons from comical to serious.
Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler continue to be the foundation of this program in terms of NASCAR content. Venturini is long overdue to increase her time on SPEED, but has not been seen on Race Hub, TWIN or The SPEED Report. Sadler did a solid job as an analyst on SPEED's Nationwide Series coverage of practice and qualifying. It seems he has an eye on the TV booth for the future.
Rutlege Wood is also featured on the program, handling the entertainment and sales features. Wood has made himself into a character and now often seems to be trying to keep his TV image intact. It's been quite a while since he was a fresh face on the scene.
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