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.


Shirley Buttacavoli said...

ESPN gets a turn??? What the heck have they been doing for the past 2 months? Okay, maybe one month.

I didn't think about Reid having ties w/ Danica. Good point.

Just as I watch F1 no matter what time it is aired, I watch IRL & saw Danica win in Motegi. I sent a text message to David Poole when the race was over. His reply was: Great, she wins a race that no one saw.

As much as I hate it, the focus will be on Danica. From day 1, I don't know a fan that didn't think she'd be in the Nationwide race at Daytona. When she was introduced as the spokesperson for COPD, it was obvious she'd be in the Drive4COPD 300.

For her sake, and that of JR Motorsports, I hope she does well. IMO, finishing the race would be an accomplishment.

It might be the first time in a long time the cameras focus on a driver in the back of the field, vs one that is in the lead.

That'll make Go Daddy proud.

I guess we'll find out in a few hours.

dwight said...

I've had two at the track experiences which revolve around Danica. I was in the stands at Kansas the afternoon Danica won her first pole. I felt physically threatened by the reaction of the man sitting in front of us when, after she posted her time, I said to my son that I thought it would be neat to have been present for the event if that time held up.

In 2006 I was lucky enough to have seats on the front stretch at the Indianapolis 500. The number of families who were there with their young daughters was quite impressive. (I suppose the fellow at Kansas City would have disapproved.) I thought, and continue to think, it is great for racing, for parents, and young girls that role models like Danica exist. I'd much rather be taking my nieces to the track to watch Danica than to some boy band concert. And how can new racing fans be a bad thing?

Damon said...

Kyle Busch may not like the focus of television coverage she's gotten so far and it not being on some of the other teams, but that comment rings hollow from him considering he stunk up the Nationwide series last year and made it virtually unwatchable.

Don't worry though KB, she's gone after Vegas and you'll be back to stinking up the show again and taking a bulk of the TV coverage with you. Enjoy.

Ken said...

ESPN will be lost if Danica wrecks or breaks early. What will they do for the rest of the race? Last year, we got their scripted telecast regardless of what was happening on the track.

Damon said...

ESPN will be fine regardless of what Danica does because of all the Cup guys in this race today who are sure to be there at the end (yawn).

Matt TSB said...

"Deep down, the entire ESPN team knows that this one event has the potential to be a TV ratings bonanza."

This doesn't make any sense at all.

EVERYBODY with any involvment or interest in the sport knows right in the very front of their thoughts that this is likely to be the most watched Nationwide/Busch race ever. We'll see how things progress, but the numbers for the first 15 or 30 minutes should be very high compared to most NW races.

Anyone got the numbers from last years race?

Daly Planet Editor said...


You say that does not make any sense and then you say the exact same thing.

Not getting that one...

Anonymous said...

I plan to DVR the race and watch it after it ends. I'm gonna fast forward all the Danica talk so I guess I'll only see 5 minutes of the race.

Damon said...

Last year's race drew a 2.0 US rating, a 2.4 cable rating and 3.238 million viewers on ESPN2

The 2008 drew a 2.2 US rating, a 2.5 cable rating and 3.214 million viewers on ESPN2

The 2007 race on ESPN2 drew a 1.9 US rating, 2.3 cable rating and 2.145 million viewers

All these ratings are from Sports Business Daily if you want to look them up.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Good story about this topic over at for you to read.

Damon said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the ratings/viewership are actually lower across the board for this race considering how much they've promoted Danica's participation this week on the ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN News and how everybody is reacting negatively to it.

Nan S said...

I think today's race will have high ratings because so many people are snowed in.

Danica is a conservative driver (at least in the IRL) which is why she finishes most races. This race, who knows. If she exits early then ESPN will just fill the rest of the broadcast rerunning the crash endlessly and discussing how she would be doing if she was still running.

Even the weather channel keeps mentioning her being in the race. My husband, no Nascar fan, is sick of it and he only hears it as he passes through the room while I am watching something stock car related.

Anonymous said...

“I noticed I had an anger being built up toward Danica and was totally frustrated about her being there. I felt like I was racing in the DANICA 200 instead of the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. We have struggled for 3 years to run a full season in ARCA, and finally are with a good team, was a threat all week long – and never once got good recognition for it.”

“For the media and everyone else, please realize that she is the same as the rest of us out there under a helmet and strapped into a car. I think her off-track brand and image is speaking louder than her on-track performance…”

Did anyone see that Ali Owens poste dthat on her Facebook?

JLee said...

All I gotta say is if it wasn't for this new take on the Drive for Diversity program & Revolution Racing, I'd seriously be considering kicking Nascar to the curb right about now. I surely hope that they too will receive this much hype for their racing events as well & when their show Changing Lanes premiers on BET.

Speaking of which, JD, since you have clout w/the Nascar big wigs, will you ask them to consider showing that cool documentary they had about Wendell Scott & others that they showed a few years ago? It's Black History month & it's cool to see the contributions that ppl of color have made to the sport. RIP Harry Davis.

Good luck to Jennifer Jo Cobb tonight in the trucks. :)

Daly Planet Editor said...


NASCAR and BET are working on a new series that will debut later this year on that subject.

NASCAR has absolutely no control over any TV network, so the programming selections are made by the individual TV networks.


JLee said...

Thanks JD & you're right. I forgot to mention that the documentary was on SPEED I believe. So I'll contact them about it. I didn't know if Nascar Media Group had something to do w/it.

Damon said...

Has anybody seen the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's new billboard with Danica on it yet? Bet poor Kyle Busch's head is going to explode when he finally does.

Even in his own hometown he's getting punked by an outsider....I love it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

If there is NASCAR footage in a program, NMG has something to do with it...

Vicky D said...

Supppose ESPN has their script in hand and can't wait for the race to begin and it'll be all Danica. I also didn't like the comment by KB. He should be a full time NW only driver who will probably never be seen today, although I have hope for MR to point them out. Wish RL was doing the race too. Can't wait to see this important race today.

Matt TSB said...

Mr D,

"Deep Down" has nothing to do with it. It's right up front, they're counting on it. If the race doesn't put up a huge number (for whatever portion of it Danica runs) then what? That would be an interesting question.

Chris from NY said...

No question that EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink will be thrown for Danica. Lucky the Olympics are starting today as well....

Matt TSB said...

"Deep down, many readers of this blog know and/or fear that Patrick will deliver a much larger audience than normal, which is one reason you can already see some posts offerering alternative rationalizations for the audience size" would also make sense.

Would anybody buy it I said I expect the number to be lower since they are up against the Olympics?

Didn't think so.

MikeC said...

I believe the numbers will turn out quite well for this race. The only question is if the Olympics steal any of the viewers. But by the time NBC hits the air with the Olympics, maybe enough people will be hooked into the Nationwide race that they don't switch.

Anonymous said...

Actually John, from having talked with some of the TV people, NASCAR does call the shots and tells them what they can and can't tell or cover.

Also, the forms the drivers, team owners, team members, and media folks sign to get their credentials says that NASCAR controls/owns anything they say, write, report, or photograph.

Fans who have shown up with signs supporting certain tracks or drivers for some of the Speed TV shows have been asked to not show their signs or leave because NASCAR called and said get rid of the signs. In one case, the sign owner was threatened with being arrested and the signs confiscated.

So to say NASCAR doesn't control the networks isn't totally true. No offense.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:48PM,

The NASCAR release is identical to the NFL, NBA and even the PGA Tour.

NASCAR does not control the content of what is said or reported at all, they merely protect the copyright that is in place for every event.

That means you cannot take race footage and must abide by the rules of which broadcast, TV and print entities get first shot at content.

It's all the same, no conspiracy theory there.

dwight said...

Danicamania must be real. I just watched a Nationwide Insurance ad, and it featured Danica's crew chief and his cousin. ;)