Thursday, July 14, 2011

NASCAR Gets A Friend At ESPN

It's perhaps one of the worst-kept secrets at ESPN. The vast majority of the SportsCenter anchors hate NASCAR. They cannot stand the sport invading the time reserved for endless baseball highlights and news about important topics like another Brett Favre comeback or what Danica was wearing at the ESPY's.

When it comes to NASCAR again this year, SportsCenter has swung and missed. As they say in ESPN lingo, it was "a whiff." Click here to review a story originally posted in June about an incident that had fans fuming. This time, it was SportsCenter anchor John Anderson. His on-air antics after the Chicagoland Nationwide Series race were nothing short of spiteful.

Wednesday night on NBC4 in Washington, DC there was emotion on the set. Click here to see the send-off by the anchor team for sports reporter Lindsay Czarniak. Goodbyes in TV are usually awkward, but this one was clearly from the heart.

Czarniak was first seen by many NASCAR fans as the high-energy pit reporter who showed up for the summer during the six TNT races. Hardcore fans who watched practice and qualifying coverage know that during the TNT stretch Czarniak stepped right in and worked the garage and pits for SPEED like a veteran NASCAR reporter.

This season on TNT Czarniak has been hosting the pre-race show, remaining in the host position during the race and then handling both the TV and online post-race shows. It's been an impressive performance for someone who does not work the NASCAR trail full time.

Czarniak recently announced that she was heading for a new career at ESPN in Bristol, CT starting in August. After some quick speculation that she might be involved in NASCAR coverage, ESPN released the information that she was headed for SportsCenter as an anchor.

The photo above of Czarniak and Carl Edwards is from a feature she was shooting for TNT. In her summers in the sport, Czarniak has experienced NASCAR from a wonderful perspective. She has met and interacted with the top drivers and personalities. She has been on pit road during races.

Ironically, it was Carl Edwards who showed-up live on a TNT telecast after falling out of a recent race. Czarniak was completely comfortable with Edwards just hanging around and offering commentary. Comfortable on the air is a phrase that is often used to describe Czarniak's style.

When August rolls around and ESPN is handling coverage of both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, Czarniak should just be getting her feet wet on the air in Bristol. That certainly is interesting timing.

Don't underestimate the impact of a high-profile ESPN anchor who not only likes NASCAR, but has experienced it first-hand for years. Now, the sport has a former veteran pit road reporter and telecast host in the anchor chair at SportsCenter.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Czarniak moved into the version of SportsCenter that the network uses as a flexible Sprint Cup Series extended post-race show. It also wouldn't surprise me to see some on-air attitudes toward the sport change rather rapidly.

It's going to be a lot harder to make fun of NASCAR when the SportsCenter boys figure out that the person sitting beside them at the anchor desk has been there and done that.

We will update the information on where Czarniak is assigned once she joins ESPN next month. Good luck to her as she makes this career transition.

We welcome your thoughts on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.


Anonymous said...

From your mouth to God's ears, JD... Let's hope she leads by example and instills some NASCAR respect among her new SportsCenter colleagues in Bristol.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that one person can change the culture of ESPN, but I hope I'm wrong. Most company cultures ultimately reflect the views of their leadership. I wish her well, but asking her to change a culture is a pretty heavy burden.

RPM said...

On the surface this looks like a great move for Lindsay. Let's just hope ESPN actually uses her for NASCAR stories instead of making her a ball and stick chick.

Anonymous said...

I hope your right JD, but I do not think one person, especially a female, will make any change in espn's bias. To Lindsay, excellent work at TNT and looking forward to seeing you on espn. MC

Anon/J said...

Well, it ain't too often that someone does a good job and is praised for it.

You got the Blarney Stone there. So...thanks. It's a good sendoff.

ESPN's offerings if you *don't* watch stick and ball stuff - I know - *gasp!* - they remain an irrelevant network there.

Their failing, IMO - is that while they might bring a few cameras to events, that's about it. Great for the things they focus on, be it NFL (everyone's howling about that, is it their offseason now?) or otherwise.

They do just barely enough, as a whole, to roll in the bucks.

I'm glad she bailed out of the losing end of things, but I think she'd do a lot better shopping around. ESPN isn't somewhere anyone wants to work if they got gooder options. :)

Just my opinion, y'all - don't flame me too badly.

Anonymous said...

I watch very little ESPN or Sportscenter, I might watch more if I can find where stick Lindsay. She's going to be out numbered. Wish her well.

GinaV24 said...

Well I sure hope this works out well for both Lindsay and "us" the NASCAR fans.

I've said this before but I never watch SC because they don't talk about anything that interests me.

I have enjoyed her work on TNT and wish her the best of luck working with ESPN.

Sam said...

Good luck to her. I like her and think she does a good job for TNT. I've given up on ESPN years ago. I only watch them when I have no other option to watch the sporting event I want to see.

KoHoSo said...

JD, I like your optimism and, like many others here, hope you are correct that her presence will help other personalities on that channel at least curb their distaste for racing.

That being said...well, I gave up on watching SportsCenter several years ago now and do not plan to go back. With the exception of a few specialty shows (NASCAR Now being one), I get all of my sports news and highlights online so I can avoid the overblown, slanted, and goofy nonsense that SportsCenter churns out these days.

GinaV24 said...

JD, looking at these comments about how few of the Planeteers watch SC, I wonder if that is true across most of the fans who follow NASCAR?

Anonymous said...

There is always hope. I've never been a soccer fan but I happened to catch the USA women's team win the World Cup semi final yesterday and I was like, hey, that was pretty cool. So a change of heart is possible.

Anonymous said...

As a DC Metro area resident, I have her sports reports very often. She seamlessly transitions across all sports. Her mentor was the late great George Michael. If anyone can the attitude towards NASCAR, she can. Our loss is the nation's gain.

Lisa Hogan said...

Yeah, what Sam said. :)

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know nascar is not alone, in the Tour de France bike race two cyclists were wiped out by a car. One was sent upside down backward into a barbed wire fence doing about 30mph. Michael Smith of espn thought this was funny. Care to bet how many of espn's brass thought it was funny too? MC

Jonathan said...

This is awsome RESPECT is the word of the day and maybe just maybe we will see some from ESPN to Nascar! I just ordered my tickets for the Brickyard so I wont be able to see the first race on TV (woohoo) and its post race on ESPN but I will like to see how this plays out!

Anonymous said...

she will try to care about NASCAR, but the fools in bristol who run sportsCenter hate racing. She'll fall right in line. watch!

No talking in the booth for 6 minutes said...

TNT last week's Sprint Cup..did
something that I have been talking
about forever.
The only sounds we got ..for over
6 minutes at one streth of the race... were ENGINES PIT WORK
yes it finally happened.
We thank all of the folks who
took part in this DANGEROUS shift
in policy and we hope you do it
each week.

A more daunting task is this :
Adam and his personna. good nite