Saturday, March 19, 2011
Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Bristol, TN. (ESPN - 1PM ET)
Update: Jennifer Jo Cobb news can be found in the comments section.
The ESPN TV booth at the Bristol Motor Speedway is waiting for Rusty Wallace. He is a former stand-out at the track, a former Sprint Cup Series champion and a current Nationwide Series multi-car owner. Saturday afternoon, he gets a shot at moving up from the infield pit studio and calling a big race on a critical weekend for the sport.
Wallace has to contend with the pending Goodyear tire problems, the presence of the elephant in the room with Danica Patrick in the field and the fact that he has not called a big race from the TV booth for some time.
Forget the presence of his own teams in the event. Forget the fact that he just signed with ESPN through the 2014 season. Forget that he is clearly in the middle of building a racing organization with Sprint Cup Series participation in mind for the future.
The history of Rusty Wallace in the TV booth is that sooner or later his temper will get the better of him and the comments will begin to fly. The upside of Wallace is his knowledge of racing. He was a hands-on guy who came up the hard way. The downside was that when he lost it, he just lost it. Hothead all the way.
One key to Wallace's current success on the ESPN telecasts sits to his right. Allen Bestwick simply knows how to direct traffic on the air. He did it on the radio and has been doing it on ESPN as a pit reporter, a substitute play-by-play announcer and now as the fulltime host of the Infield Pit Studio since 2007.
Bestwick knows when to give the infield analysts time to discuss topics and when to step right back in and take control. The challenge for Wallace in Bristol this Saturday may be having a different man sitting to his right. Marty Reid has been having a tough time since coming over from the NHRA and IndyCar beat.
Despite early optimism, Reid has struggled in this role and last season's NASCAR coverage on ESPN ended with a thud in Homestead. It wasn't pretty.
Reid and Wallace will be joined by ESPN's voice of reason in Andy Petree. He is the one man in the booth who has been in that position since ESPN returned to NASCAR. Petree and Wallace frequently disagreed when they worked together side-by-side. At a track like Bristol, it will be very interesting to watch the dynamic between these two analysts.
Bestwick will host from the infield with Brad Daugherty alongside. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage. Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch, Jamie Little and Dave Burns will be covering pit road. This time, ESPN brings ten voices to Bristol.
TV fundamentals apply across the board at this track. Focused comments from the analysts mixed with excitement and information from the play-by-play announcer is the only combination that works when laps take 16 seconds.
Pit reporters work with hand signals to their production teams because of the noise level under green. It's tough to slip in any Tech Garage segments or use the infield studio unless there is a caution. The action is just too fast.
Each season, the biggest complaint is the TV commercials. 16 second laps and three minute commercial breaks simply do not mix. Without any side-by-side commercials or an online RaceBuddy for the Nationwide Series, be prepared to miss a lot of this race when ESPN is in commercial under green.
This is the new Bristol and the Nationwide drivers have shown that racing side-by-side is easy to do. Banking on countless caution flags for commercial breaks could be a rough philosophy. It should be very interesting to see how the ESPN producer handles this challenging element of the telecast.
As we have discussed for years, using the in-car cameras at the wrong time can ruin a viewer's experience at this track. Instead, an aggressive TV director stays ahead of the field and shows viewers "more headlights than brake lights." If you begin to see the back ends of race cars, someone is getting tired.
Bristol has some great angles and views from the high cameras because the track is so small. Also, the aerial shots can really show the beauty of the area and the unique location of the track to TV viewers. Returning from commercial break, offering a "scene set" by using these types of shots allows for a smooth transition.
In the old days, the rule was no music into commercial break when the cars are under green. The theory was that TV viewers tuned-in to see and hear the cars, not someone's selection of tunes designed to "fit the location." This has certainly been an issue with ESPN this season.
The NASCAR Countdown pre-race begins at 1PM and the green flag should fly around 2:14PM ET. The weather looks good.
This post will serve to host your comments about ESPN's production of the Nationwide Series race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. To add your comment before, during or after the race just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.