Saturday, February 13, 2010
ESPN Looking For The Danica Factor To Continue
They come because they saw it on the TV news. They come because it's something different. They come because they are snowed-in and bored. They come because they want to see what all the fuss is about. As SPEED found out last Saturday, put Danica Patrick in a stock car and TV viewers will follow.
Now, ESPN gets a turn at the publicity machine as Patrick joins the Nationwide Series race on Saturday afternoon. Allen Bestwick will have a full hour to lead Brad Daugherty, Ray Evernham and Rusty Wallace through a pre-race show that will no doubt have a whole lot to do with Danica.
Even as the network moves through the pre-race conversations with the fourteen Sprint Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series race, the question of how to deal with Patrick is going to be a constant. ESPN has made it a habit to emphasize speaking with the "big boys" who have come to play in the Saturday sandbox.
No one may be happier to have Danica dumped in his lap than Marty Reid. Now handling the play-by-play for ESPN's NASCAR events, Reid has the tremendous advantage of also calling the IRL races for the network. His voice is the commentary heard as Patrick won her only IRL event.
This knowledge gives Reid the opportunity to reference Patrick's IRL or stock car experiences from a very solid perspective. He may need both to either explain her struggles or perhaps relate her success on the Daytona track racing in a NASCAR series.
It would only be fitting if Dr. Jerry Punch was assigned the Patrick pit. For the first time in many years, Punch has been asked to return to the very role that brought him to the attention of NASCAR fans decades ago. Chronicling Patrick may pose just the kind of pit road challenge that Punch can conquer.
The entire ESPN team had Nationwide Series practice to get up to speed on working with each other, but the Saturday race is going to be a big event. After the bad taste left in the mouths of many by the network's Chase coverage last season, this is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.
Deep down, the entire ESPN team knows that this one event has the potential to be a TV ratings bonanza. If Patrick can keep herself out of harm's way and finish the race in a respectable position, ESPN and NASCAR may finally have found a way to make the Nationwide Series interesting to TV viewers once again.
TDP will offer a live blog of this race, but we would like to get your comments in advance on the build-up around Patrick. To add your comment on this topic, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks and we will see you Saturday at 11:30AM for live NASCAR TV chat.