Sunday, July 31, 2011

TV Police: Sprint Cup Series From Indy On ESPN

Jake and the Fatman had a nice five year run on CBS starting in 1987. After seeing William Conrad guest star on Matlock, the producers of Jake cast him as the lead. The fatman never traveled without his pet bulldog, Max.

The show started in Los Angeles but moved to Hawaii when Magnum PI stopped production. It moved back in the final season. Fatman McCabe was a former cop turned prosecutor who did not take any crap. He was a seasoned veteran who had some tough luck in life but had persevered. He's perfect for the investigation of ESPN's Brickyard coverage.

This week, ESPN turned the page and made a ton of changes to its NASCAR coverage. Foremost was putting TV veteran Allen Bestwick in the lead announcer position.

Bestwick had Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside in the broadcast booth. Nicole Briscoe hosted from the infield with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Garage.

ESPN offered several slickly produced features in the pre-race show. Briscoe noted that Wallace was affected by one of them and was actually brought to tears. The program focused a lot on the history of the speedway and not really on this race as the continuation of a season that started in February.

Bestwick made big changes right away. He is a radio veteran and his strong point is continually passing along information to keep the viewers at home up to date. Recaps are done regardless of what is showing up on the screen for video.

Hope Solo was a visitor to the infield studio after her pace car duties. She was not a person who has done a lot of TV and her appearance during green flag racing was awkward. She tried to steer the conversation toward soccer and it didn't make a lot of sense.

Ned Jarrett stopped by the broadcast booth mid-race. David Ragan was driving a Jarrett tribute car in the race. Jarrett was on his game and actually stopped his own interview when a car made an unscheduled pit stop. Nice to see some of ESPN's NASCAR roots being celebrated on the air.

ESPN knew this race was going to be a series of long runs with passing happening on pit road and restarts. This year, Bestwick moved right past that and focused on calling the race and letting the reality of the event come through without a network agenda.

A new graphics package and some new looks in the coverage were nice touches. A four video box split on caution flag pitstops was nice. The "Bat-cam" on pit road did not play into the coverage, but was nice when used on green flag stops and some restarts.

ESPN dropped the lower third score ticker called "The bottom line" for this race but the network says it will return for the NFL season. Not having another ticker on the screen during a live event where a scoring ticker runs almost all the time was nice.

ESPN made nice pictures, but the difference was that these pictures were big. ESPN stayed wide and helped fans with larger perspective shots that showed big groups of cars in the shot. Combined with Bestwick's ability to pass along information, it made a huge difference.

Commercial breaks under green are tough, especially on a big track like Indy. The commercials were just a bit tougher to take since ESPN decided not to use the RaceBuddy application from Turner Sports to offer even a basic online alternative. It should be noted that ESPN will used side-by-side commercial formats for the final half of each of the ten Chase races.

As everyone knew, the race consisted of passing on pit road and restarts. Incidents just came from pushing and shoving for position. The race came down to fuel mileage as it often does in the Indy 500. NASCAR's fuel wars are a big story.

This was a nice change for ESPN with professional coverage of a NASCAR race with just one glitch. ESPN showed only the winner cross the finish line. No other car was shown. Big mistake for fans of the other drivers still racing as Mendard finished.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN production of the Sprint Cup Series race from Indy. To add your TV race wrap-up, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.


OSBORNK said...

This was the best race coverage we have seen in years. It's a shame they messed up the last 30 seconds of great coverage. I really hope the good coverage continues the rest of the year and they give us a the last 30 seconds at the finish line.

I have never seen such a dramatic improvement from the last race they covered. It's good to be able to say something good about race coverage.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations ESPN, you nailed it!
(except for not showing the finish)

PLEASE continue with this same coverage all season. You've made watching CUP fun again.

Thank you Alan Bestwick for making it happen.


Anonymous said...

Much better race coverage...they did a good job of keeping a Ho-hum race interesting...AB is back and I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
ESPN stepped up its effort today starting with Allen Bestwick making the race call ...'bat-cam' was a plus as was the non-promoted and rodent free'tread cam' ...unfortunately, the ball was dropped with the poor (read non-existent) coverage of the finish little respect for the thousands of team members represented by the 42 cars that did not cross the finish line in first place ...simply inexcusable and wholly disrespectful to those unsung heroes of the sport ...pit reports were improved ...better pictures ...hope to see more steps forward in coming weeks

Anonymous said...

Outside of the finish, a mostly impressive effort.
Keep it up ESPN, and you'll give Fox and TNT reason to step up their game next year.

PammH said...

I agree w/all that's been posted so far. Much better coverage by BSPN, except for blowing the end of the race. AB made it exciting & used DJ & AP just as they were meant to be there for. B+

Buschseries61 said...

It's amazing how one person can change so much. Similar to FOX & TNT, ESPN started out their block of coverage with a fantastic broadcast.

Bestwick simply told the story of the race, directed traffic, and kept order. He let the race unfold and followed the stories & issues. He was not afraid to look out the window and reference things off screen. He broke the chain that the production truck tugged on the previous two play-by-play announcers. He was able to reference past races and old faces due to his long career in the sport. He kept the energy up despite long green flag runs with little passing. Jarrett & Petree were lively and having fun. The restarts featured a rundown of the front and different strategies. The pit reporters were used constantly to deliver information to the booth. Finally, Bestwick delivered a fantastic call to the finish.

The production truck also had a good day. Every debris caution featured a shot of the debris and a replay. ESPN caught almost every lead change. Beautiful wide shots let viewers see the entire race. The bottom ticker was gone and updated graphics were nice on the eyes. Points as of Now were not the story and were nowhere to be found. The only negative was the finish line shot that did not exist.

The infield studio was solid, Nicole did a good job. The soccer player interview was a mistake by the ESPN staff. Rusty did ok, Brad was pretty useless. The post-race show filled up the entire time slot and provided a large amount of interviews. Nice job.

Hopefully ESPN keeps this up for the remainder of the season.

Anonymous said...

I thought the coverage was good. Allen Bestwick brought so much to the coverage and it was obvious. Aside from not showing the lead lap cars cross the finish line I thought the coverage was solid.

James said...

I have not enjoyed a broadcast race in a very long time. I am very pleased to say the two races ESPN presented this weekend were well done. I wish the finish of the Cup race was better, but the energy level and the profesionalism from the booth to the video was excellant. I hope it is understood that the PxP person should control the telecast and direct the questions in such a way that enhance the knowledge of the expert analyst in the booth. That PxP person needs to be a race fan and not a talking head.

rich said...

Wow, I cannot believe that so many things were improved in just one race. First, Allen Bestwick gets a standing O. He steered the ship today and made me hopeful of even better things in the future.
Really enjoyed not having the running ticker at the bottom of the screen for baseball scores etc. It made the screen less busy.
I thought that in-car cam shots were kept to a minimum and the rest of the pictures were good. ESPN always makes good pictures but sometimes they don't make sense.
That is probably the biggest change in this broadcast. I knew what was happening in the race. AB did a superb job of filling in the gaps.
Pit reporters were used well and the infield studio was kept to a minimum.
The elephant in the room is the finish line shot. It is unforgivable to not show at least the top 10 finishing the race, especially when lots of folks are running out of gas and positions are changing quickly.
If they are not going to show it live, then it should have been replayed quickly.
Hopefully the new contract will address side by side coverage during commercials since in a race like this with few cautions it is easy to lose your audience's attention.
Lastly, the energy level in the booth saved the day. There were no crickets and we were treated by the booth as equal fans.
Thank you ESPN

TexasRaceLady said...

Be still my heart ---- ESPN got it right. With the exception of not showing the field coming to the checkers, this broadcast was head and shoulders above any of ESPN's races in the past.

AB's obvious enthusiasm kept me interested, even during the times when not much was happening.

I've hammered ESPN in the past, but I'm not afraid to issue plaudits when deserved.

glenc1 said...

they ruined that show when they sent them back to LA and made it all too dark....

anyways, ESPN did a much, much better job than what we've seen from them in a long time. My driver finished 4th, though, and I'd have liked to have seen that rather than waiting for his head to fly in....

Allen was like the guiding hand, keeping them on track; he had good rapport with Andy & Dale, handled the booth with ease and yes, excitement to those people who claimed he had no emotion. Better camera work too today. They are finally heading in the right direction, I hope hope there are enough fans left to watch.

MRM4 said...

Excellent broadcast except for not showing the car cross the finish line. Calls of the race were much better, the booth worked together nicely, and there wasn't a lot of extra B.S. we see from Fox. Good, basic coverage with plenty of information.

They never showed the dual in-car camera shot that had been hyped all week. ESPN continues to have some of the worst picture quality except during certain events. The colors were a bit more washed out that we've seen previously and overall seemed a bit bright at times. Even Fox improved theirs this year.

Still, overall great broadcast. Liked the new graphics too.

Anonymous said...

What a fun race. My guy won...been watching him for a while. Keeping the camera on the action at the front was well worth it. Watching them battle and then Menard, Martin and Gordon turning up the wick in the last couple of laps was a hoot!

I liked the wire cam, it was a different take on pit road stuff. Seems like the kind of thing that could be used at other tracks. The long angles were nice. When all the cars picked up grass they focused on that which was silly, everyone know what grass looks like.

I was in the garage so only halfway getting the early part of the show. The discussion of the diamond grooves in the pavement was interesting. They did a little piece on the various things that a crew chief needs to think about WRT strategy, tuning the carbs, etc. I thought that was good. I'm a gearhead...was prepping my own car for a track weekend. I like hearing about tech stuff. I'd like to hear more of this kind of the cars differ from team to team, from car to car within the team. People say with the COT it's lost its roots let's talk about this stuff.

Anyway, fun day.

not what these guys ate for lunch.

OrangeTom said...

Great improvement with AB leading the call.

Have given up on any network providing coverage of all the finishers in real time so not quite as upset about that as others.

Only complaint would be Nicole--who I otherwise think is excellent in her NASCAR coverage--sounding very slow and stilted in the in-race updates, almost like she was getting fed her lines by a producer.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

I saw portions of the race, Pirates really honking me off these days. What I saw was above and beyond a good telecast. Thank you ESPN for getting your collective heads out of your hine parts. Now do the right thing and build on the telecast and do us a favor show us at least the top 10 finish the race.

Good telecast ESPN, keep up the good work.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

And ESPN do me a huge favor KEEP THE TICKER OFF...If We Want to watch football, we'll watch football. Not the race.

Scott M said...

ESPN seems fickle when it comes to NASCAR. It's like they want to cover it and then they don't, etc. Much better today aside from the aforementioned blown end of the race.

I'm glad to hear Allen Bestwick getting the credit he has deserved for a long time. He's a pro. Almost nothing gets by him which means we hear about a lot more. With some of the other people, you wonder if they're watching the same event as you.

Anonymous said...

Not to justify the botched finish, but it seems like as long as I can remember, the Indy finish has always been the final straight shot followed by a zoom in to the flagman. Happens in May as well as July. Hopefully its a one time thing. AB was great today. Hope he keeps it up.

Roland said...

This race really drug down the broadcast. No passing, fake cautions, no passing, and no passing. Im not doing cartwheels because ESPN finally didnt suck for once. It was a B+ broadcast at best. But this was the first ESPN broadcast where I didnt listen to the radio coverage instead since Charlotte last October. Allen Bestwick did a great job. His delivery is a million times better than the fool that previously had the job. Nicole was stunning, and her hosting job wasnt that bad either haha.

Still got a lot of work to do. Some of the graphics are for 4:3 and some are for HD, which is incredible annyoying. Pick one, cant do both. The ticker still takes 5 minutes to go through the field, but I guess that will never change.

Like I said B+ broadcast, but significantly better than the previous 4 years of crap.

Fed UP said...

The tv coverage was very good. I enjoy the dynamic that Petrie and Dale Jarrett have together and with Bestwick, they work very well together.
What can you really say about Indy? The restarts are the best, but the race is rather boring. All in all, ESPN did very well with what I saw.

Sam said...

Finally ESPN puts on a race broadcast nearly worthy of their 80's and 90's heyday. AB is the key in my book. He actually watches the race and knows what he's talking about.

Jarrett and Petree both sounded excited and energetic. Last year with the other dude they sounded tired and defeated.

I too will bash ESPN in a second but will also say when the do a good job and today they did.

MortonGroveDon said...

The best race coverage all season.They did a great job considering the race was typical Indy. For those of you that say the old days are gone, well AB did a good job of reaching back. Petree and Jarrett did what they were suppose to do, add to the play by play,not be a part of it.

In my dream world there would be no second desk for commentating.Its simply not needed, let the first team carry the show, along with the pit reporters.Camera work seemed good,the 2 cameras in each car is a nice touch.

Let see what happens next week when they roll into another long,flat track with little excitement. Im encouraged, but as Rusty has said"the final 30 laps will determine the outcome of this race".

LVI56 said...

Pretty good coverage. Love AB in the booth, defiantly made a difference in the final laps. NB in the studio did well. The new graphics are nice, and the side-by-side windows are good sizes, and the quad pit windows was great. Like that they used more wide-screen graphics, would love to see everything that way.

BTW, quick aside... the xgames rallycross coverage was horrible, I kept screaming at my TV for them to zoom out and change angles. In the final all they did was track the leader while other action and wrecking was going on. Very frustrating.

Good to see progress made on the Nascar end, but the rest of their motorsports coverage still needs help.

Anonymous said...

Yes, better than yesterday. But...pit coverage was tepid. From having the wrong car in the wrong window on split screens, to not having a pit out counter for the first few stops, to not having any warning that so many cars would pit and top off under green with less than 30 laps to go. And the guests during racing action were dreadfully boring.

Sophia said...

I hope the SD pictures fit on screen. I'm lucky enough to have watched friends huge tv..but what did this look like on a 20 inch tv?

Much improved over most ESPN except for the botched ending...but even Indy car does that now :(

The bottom ticker SHOULD STAY away in my opinion. It's only distracting, annoying & can cause vertigo with the constant business.

I will hold out for further compliments as I fear this will not continue over to the rest of the races. Indianapolis is big hype.

Will we see wide shots next week?

Enjoyed the booth but for me the proof is in the pudding...or in this case the pictures on the tele.

I switched between Reds & race for an hour or so..then Reds won a sweep after they'd honked me off earlier in the week.

So NASCAR was a great distraction today...I hope they keep up the good work and like I said, that that graphics work for folks w SD..we don't all OWN an HD television.

Good to see a different winner, too!

Arniect88 said...

Overall a solid broadcast. Soccer chick green flag interview was painful.

Allen did what we expected, he raised the level of those around him. and he delivered the first solid PXP job for Nascar on ESPN since Bob Jenkins.

Normally not showing the cars finish would be upsetting but Paul Menard winning at Indy where his family has spent so many years and so much money, and lost drivers that was the story.

Anonymous said...

Who says everybody on the Daly Planet blog is negative?

When you listen and make changes and do it right you are recognized.

Good job ESPN - keep it up.

Bruce Ciskie said...

If given a choice of "clueless PBP guy, tight camera shots, Rusty Wallace running his mouth, and a shot of all the lead-lap cars crossing the finish line" or "great PBP guy with a passion for the race, wide shots, slick graphics, good information from the pit reporters, and I only get to see the winner cross the line," I'm taking the latter every one of the 36 races. Sign me up.

Good job, ESPN. A fixable mistake at the end, but otherwise supreme work.

Anonymous said...

AB was awesome to listen to, the race was enjoyable, save the finish. So they get a solid B+ from me for this broadcast. Last year they got an F & I quit watching & used MRN only. My what a difference a year & a good play by play guy makes.
Racebuddy would have gotten them a higher grade ( hint). ESPN did the best with what they had to work with, which wasn't great to start with. Enjoyable, and its good to see Mr. Bestwick where he belongs. Doc was on pit road, just a good day here for me.
Thanks JD

GinaV24 said...

Boy it is nice to have Allen back in the booth. Very well done, there's no substitute for having someone in the booth who knows racing and can call the action.

DJ and Andy did a good job. I ignore the infield studio for the most part since rusty and brad add nothing to the broadcast IMO.

the only real disappointment was having ESPN not show the field crossing the finish line. That's the payoff for the entire race - I want to see it.

Overall though, a really good way for ESPN to start out its portion of the season.

KoHoSo said...

The changes with AB at the helm were like night and day on almost every single issue that we have been harping about here. However, there are two areas that need significant improvement.

1. The failure to show the finish of the field, even just the top 10 cars or through some sort of graphic, was exactly as JD put it -- an insult. I sat through at least half of the post-race coverage before going to do something else and I still had no idea where anybody finished beyond sixth. I can sort of understand ESPN not holding a finish line shot at a track as big as IMS where 32 cars finished on the lead lap. Still, that was inexcusable and I hope AB hears the complaints and gets that fixed.

2. There was not good coverage of lesser-known drivers while running up front nor a good through-the-field. There were some mentions of cars further back at times but I felt there was still too much focus up front even though we got our desired wider camera angles.

Those two things being said, please do not get the wrong idea. This is the best NASCAR Cup telecast there has been all year. Kudos to ESPN for finally having the stones to make more big changes.

Sally said...

It's amazing how interesting a race with generally little 'action' outside of restarts can be when the entire race is covered as it unfolds, rather than following a pre determined storyline. AB kept viewers up to date on information, wide shots gave an overall flow to the race. I found myself closely following an entire race for the first time in 3 years. Amazing what a different experience this was. I hope ESPN continues to give us this type of coverage, and it wasn't just a special effort because it was at Indy. I'm impressed with the improvements they have made. I hope they continue to do so.

adamtw1010 said...

I think ESPN has finally gotten their act together and turned a corner on their coverage. I hope this continues all season.

I do have a few things I think ESPN should look at for future races:

1) Driver Introductions at Indy. They've shown these the last couple years, but didn't this year. I don't know if the format changed in a way that it would have taken up the whole Countdown show, but that was something I was looking forward to.
2) ESPN finally has the ability to show two in-car angles. Rather than the driver, I would rather see from the back of the car or a different angle.
3) The finish. Others have documented this, so there's no need.
4) Acknowledgement of Start & Parks. Didn't happen today.

One notable positive was the pit stops and showing 4 stops along with pit road. Sure there was a technical problem with the timing & a bad camera angle for Montoya's stop, but I liked this. If it can get fixed, that'd be great.

bryanh said...

JD, AB probably reads The Daly Planet comments, but if you are not sure, someone needs to send him a Tweet. I'm not on twitter, and I will leave comment later.

Anonymous said...

I thought the coverage was fantastic. As everyone has said it was great to have AB back in the booth, his passion for the sport was contagious and seemed to spread throughout the crew.

As far as not showing the other cars crossing the finish line, do a brickyard 400 search on youtube and watch Jeff Gordon in 94 and any of the others you can find, only showing the winner and then the quick zoom to flag then the crew or incar. It is the formula for story telling and I am still not sure how much I care seeing the other cars cross the line anyway, Can you remember who came in second, third or 43rd in races past. Yes a lot of work goes into putting a car on the track, but watching a car cross the line and missing the jubilation of the crew who put so much into winning really doesn't make for memorable pictures. I think all race fans remember the tears shed shot by Chocolate myers after Kevin Harvick won his first race., we remember that because we saw it and it made for good story telling pictures. I am not sure watching each car cross the line in a wide shot is going to be very memorable.

Great Job ESPN. Keep up the great work!

KudzuCarl said...

Got home this evening and watched it on DVR. Figured I'd quickly skip through the race and get to the last 20 laps. I ended up watching the whole race - and enjoying it. Bestwick was professional and did a great job of play by play and of steering the ship. It's great to have him back. Can't wait until next week - even though it is Pocono.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to jump on the bandwagon here. The best race coverage I've seen from espn in a very very long time. It certainly wasn't perfect but it's like night and day compared to years past. Allen Bestwick was terrific and complimented Dale and Andy. Oh and Nicole Briscoe only screwed up stats a couple of times.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I knew AB would make a big difference in the booth, but I sure was not expecting all the other positive changes. I figured I would watch the start of the race to see how AB did and get so fustrated with the camera work (all the cams, zoom in, switch cameras every second, etc.) that I would have to turn it off.

I would like to thank whoever it was in upper management for standing up and saying the status quo was not working and this is what we are going to do to fix it. I would also like to thank whoever it was that stood up and said this is how the camera shots are going to be, that we are are going to show the debris, that we are not going to focus on the chase or pre-conceived storylines. And, a big thank you to AB for hanging in there, doing all you did to change the presentation of the race, and giving us an excellent PxP of the race. Thank you to whoever decided to handle the post race on the same channel and interview all the people that you did.

I hate that you blew it on the finish. All it would have taken to cover both the excitement of the winning team and showing cars finishing was split screen. Here we had the suspense and excitement of all that could happen on the last lap, and you do not even show JG cross the line. That was bad.

Still I must say I was shocked at how good the broadcast was. I sure was not expecting it. MC

Anonymous said...

I do have to note, since noone else mentioned it, Menard got one win, finally. And then they were saying that with the wildcard he could be in contention for the Chase. Technically, yes, but I'm a fan of the #27 team. It's not likely.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Please rephrase your comment if the original submission was not posted.

Anonymous said...

Having AB in the booth made all the difference for ESPN. Dale and Andy have been friends since school and it shows in their rapport. Great race coverage.
Loved, too, how they showed the cause of the first caution - Kyle Busch trying to throw an empty water bottle into the grass but not quite making it. I have to ask, though....Why no penalty from NASCAR? Could it be because they deemed it unintentional, i.e., he aimed for the grass but missed?
Anyway, great coverage with AB directing things in the booth and Jerry Punch did a good job on pit road.

SnowdogBob said...

I'm so glad it's been long enough that ESPN assumes we forgot AB worked somewhere else and is now thought of as an ESPN personality that he was "worthy" of being allowed to be call the race. It was a quite enjoyable call of the race even if the racing was more F1 style Pit/Track position like.

Just hard to feel really good about it when ESPN could have spared us the pain of last few years at any point they wanted, but instead chose to do it the "ESPN" way and have it be one of their people at the helm. I work near Bristol and have had dealings with ESPN and it seems pretty consistent with their philosophy that they don't want you to bring ideas from outside ESPN.

But now I will likely start watching ESPN cup races again.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Allen, Dale, and Andy. They have restored class to the booth. I hope DW and LarryMac were watching. THIS is how it's supposed to be done.

The camera work put FOX to shame. We didn't have to look at wheels or bumpers. We actually saw more than one car at a time. What a welcome change.

Anonymous said...

For the person wondering how the show looks on a standard def tv...ESPN broadcasts NASCAR in HD only so on your SD tv, it will just be a little squished. All the graphics will show up just fine and won't be cut off.

Anonymous said...

The Brickyard is usually one of my least favorite races of the Season. But I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a race broadcast as much as I enjoyed yesterday's race. And having Ned in the booth was such an added treat, not to mention the smile on DJ's face to be in the booth with dad. Bravo to Allen. We've missed you buddy!

Garry said...

Ned Jarrett stopped by, and they immediately showed Jeff Gordon's car. Nice. My cat could have done better coverage. And he's a CAT.I'm also sure that since the winner was not named Gordon or Johnson, ESPN is grinding their teeth now.I also laugh out loud that TNT's ratings were up over FOX. Can you spell DW? I agree with JD that they focused more on the history than the actual race. I'm really curious how the treatment of Menard next week will play out on ESPN. He'll be the one in the 27 car. Wearing the yellow firesuit. With MENARD'S on it. Just giving ESPN a little road map...

p24bh said...

One thing to fix. The top scroll has to have the intervals posted...including for lapped cars. It is the only way to tell what is happening on the track. Is a driver going forward or backward. Having the names with no time is less than useless. It is frustrating.

When watching live I can have the computer up and running, but watching the recording when the camera shot is inside a car, or in the stands or, heaven forbid, focused on soccer, only the ticker, with times posted, will keep us informed.

Vince said...

I don't have cable, but was able to watch the broadcast on my computer thanks to a site that shall remain unnamed.

First off AB is a pro and obviously he's going to make any broadcast better. And he did. I still find Dale J. very vanilla as a color comentator. He doesn't keep my attention at all. Andy is great, especially compared to Larry Mac.

I thought yesterdays broadcast was ok, but not exceptional or great by any means. I am still seeing way, way too many tight shots of just one car, usually the leader, on the track. And there is still over use of the in car, bumper and roof cams. The production and direction from the truck was a step behind the PxP all day. The new four screen split for the pit stops was great, but the pit reporting was for the most part really weak. Dr. Punch is good, the rest of the pit reporters are not. And who's idea was it to have Jamie Little do the victory lane interview? Dr. Punch would have been a better choice.

The finish was the usual cluster. I don't know why it is so hard for the broadcast partners to just show us the damn cars racing to the finish. I don't spend four hours of my day to watch a camera just focused on the the winner, his pit crew, crew chief or what ever. I want to see the rest of the lead lap cars finish the race. That is what I do when I go to a race in person.

I'd give the broadcast a C+. AB brought his A game, but that's what I expect from him. What needs work is the production truck's camera use and direction and the pit reporting. Half the time I could not tell where the cars were on the track because of the tight shots. Any gimmick cam shot should be reserved for replays only. Don't use roof or bumper cams for your main shots. And the in car cam is just a total waste. It shows me nothing. The pit reporters other than Dr. Punch are a sorry lot compared to the Speed/TNT/Fox pit reporters.

Also there were several caned pre-recorded interviews that were done during green flag racing. This type of production takes away from the racing on the track and I don't think we really need it. Most of it is stuff we've seen before on some other NASCAR show anyway.

Given this was a boring single file, follow the leader race with another gas mileage ending; I thought AB did the best he could with what he was dealt, but this was not a great broadcast.

West Coast Diane said...

Haven't had a chance to read all the comments from the live blogging but here are some thoughts:

I actually watched the whole race (On DVR) and never thought about switching to HotPass (fav driver was on it)!!

The booth seemed so natural. Allen did great and I am sure will only get better. DJ and Andy seemed much better as well. I don't recall yelling at the TV.

Hope Solo needed to be on pre race not during race and not full in booth shot. Didn't have a problem with Gentleman Ned. I also was screaming....leave Ned in the booth...nice memories. He should give announcing lessons.

Graphics were great. So much better. Not sure I understand the full screen picture comment from some but I will defer to those that know better. They did seem a little large, but may be other issues with the sizing.

I was intially upset to hear about dual in car cams. However after further review...1) kind of cool watching driver reaction to incident while seeing the incident. Also, needed only one replay, not two.

Only negative, the end! Didn't understand if anyone else ran out of fuel, who finished where. Use a split screen if you feel compelled to show winner/crew/owners/family members whatever. I was happy for Menard, but care about other drivers too.

Thanks for longer post race, but was it only because race ended earlier than time slot. We shall see.

Overall,other than finish, kudos to ESPN for the changes they made. Hope it is here to stay.

FOX....get with it!!!! Game on.

Anonymous said...

You know, I did not really notice the coverage because it was done well. And that's the way it should be. A good broadcast is one you walk away from without being angry because of the ineptitude of the announcers and of the coverage itself.
It must be Bestwick. In hindsight he did do an excellent job of keeping viewers updated. I just didn't notice it during the broadcast because it should be a given and it's what I expect (even though it rarely is that way).
We'll see if ESPN goes back to their old "pre-script the race" mode or if they've seen the light. I'm not holding my breath.

Shayne said...

I enjoyed having Bestwick, Jarrett, and Petree in the booth. A wealth of experience and knowledge without the inane comedy act.

Anonymous said...

Ummmm....not to state the obvious here but your tv history is a bit flawed. William Conrad had a very successful run as the star of "Cannon", which had nothing to do with Matlock, and was in fact an earlier series.

As to ESPN, great overall coverage of the Cup race. On the Nationwide side, Rusty Wallace needs to be removed from the booth yesterday. He's horrible at calling a race, and having him in the booth prevents the other broadcasters from calling out his kid as being completely incompetent week after week.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:35PM,

Conrad was done with "Canon" when he guested on a "Matlock" episode. The producers developing "Jake" saw him on that episode and approached him about the lead role.


Anonymous said...

I rarely listen to a race on radio and was unfamiliar with Bestwick's work in that area. I have followed him since his earliest TV work and always admired him. He has the ability to bring out the best in those around him and make the whole broadcast better. That's true whether he is doing play by play, fixing NASCAR NOW, or herding cats on Inside Winston Cup. It is a rare talent that is seldom recognized and requires putting aside your own ego.

ESPN's broadcasts in past years were so bad that they turned me into a part time viewer. I would look at the broadcast for five minutes just to get an update every twenty minutes or half hour. I tried to catch the last 15-20 minutes to watch the finish. The Indy broadcast was worthy of full time viewing. If ESPN continues to present broadcasts of this quality, I will be a full time viewer for the rest of the season.

I normally do not like a "company man" at all, and Bestwick is obviously an unabashed supporter who will speak no evil. I understand that, but I can accept that in Bestwick because he is so good at what he does.

I have never met Bestwick, but my impression is that he is a modest man based on his on-screen performance. Until I hear otherwise, I am giving Bestwick credit for all of the positive changes in the broadcast. If he is feeling good about himself today, I'll forgive him. He's entitled to take a great deal of satisfaction and pride in the changes in ESPN's NASCAR broadcast.

Anonymous said...

Agree with most of what is being said here. I thought the camera shots were wonderful. I have always liked AB, with the small exception of his goofy laugh, which I think I only heard once on yesterdays broadcast. I enjoyed Ned Jarretts' visit and thought it funny that the one thing everyone brings up to him is the one thing I probably would bring up to him too! Great job ESPN, please keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I wanted add my compliments to the broadcast crew of ESPN. Of course AB got it right; his radio background taught him now to paint pictures with words. Dale Jarrett is terrific and he's got class and integrity unlike DW who is an annoying pimp. I really like Jamie Little too. She's sharp. If they could only do away with Rusty Wallace and that Brad Doughtery spare tire they'd earn a grade of A.

allisong said...

I enjoyed the coverage yesterday, especially AB, Andy and DJ.

A few minor quibbles though - as someone above mentioned, the ticker needs to have intervals listed at all times. Having no information, or having the drivers' fastest speeds, doesn't serve any useful purpose.

I am also not a fan of inserting a pre-taped talking head interview while showing one car circling the track in a small box.

Regarding the finish line shot, they way they did it yesterday is an Indy trademark. It fits in with the image that at Indy, it is only the win that matters. Yes, both the 500 and the 400 pay points toward a series championship, but all that can be discussed later.

For those that say they don't know where their favorite driver finished if they don't see an image of him crossing the line is a specious argument for the following reasons:

1. Unless each car was sufficiently spaced out and the camera held for the ENTIRE field to cross, even the most observant viewer would most likely lose count after the first 7-8 cars.

2. If you had a favorite driver you follow, then you know where he's running as the final laps wind down.

3. If you don't know where he's running, just wait, because they will show you, either with a full screen run-down or a scroll across the top, or both.

Marylee in Richmond said...

SO glad to see Bestwick back in the booth where he belongs.

Anonymous said...

The camera work at the finish is what ABC has done for years at Indy car race there. Well, expect for this year, since the leader was crashing in turn 4. But look at the older footage of when Jeff Gordon won the first race. They show him coming down from inside of the track and once he crossed the finish line they zoom up to the checkered flag.

Stick with the Biff said...

Guess anon was watching something else. I liked Jake & the Fatman. Of course, that was mostly 'cause of Joe Penny, but was on for five years! Conrad was always a sort of 'unlikely' looking star--if I remember right, he was the radio voice for...was it Marshall Dillon? Didn't have the looks for TV. He was also in a short lived version of Nero Wolfe (I don't know why but my mind is full of useless trivia...)

Best race broadcast I've seen in ages. Bestwick was even better than Mike Joy when Mike lets Jaws get the best of him.

Anonymous said...

Can one man really make a difference? The answer here from what I've read is overwhelmingly "YES"!

A PxP announcer's job is to create excitement out of an otherwise possibly mundane situation, create excitement by causing tension, raising possibilities that may never come to fruition, make a thriller out of a documentary. Allen Bestwick is great at his job.

Did anyone stick around for the final rollout? It featured Bestwick's calls SOUND FULL. The glue that keeps the uncontrollable freight train of live TV on track. That did not happen in the days of Dr. Punch or Marty Reid. But the calls of Ken Squier, Eli Gold, Mike Joy, Bob Varsha, and Allen Bestwick are emotional moments that describe the events for history. They will be heard again and again, Amen.

One man made all the difference, PERIOD.

Here's a few tidbits:

SAME: Producer
Camera operators
Audio personnel
Video personnel
Replay Personnel

As ALL other ESPN NASCAR productions ALL YEAR LONG.

Hats off to putting the right people in the right places ESPN. It only took 5 years for you to figure it out.

Zieke said...

Agree w/ you Gina V and most of the rest. AB was a true professional and DJ and Andy showed how much difference all three made with a good leader there. Altho Tim is a nice person (met him) we don't need him in his present role. ESPN showed they have made a fine effort to make the cup races interesting. I hope they continue. Now if FOX could just understand what a thorn DW is in our side, they could get in the right direction with their broadcasts. Probably too much to ask.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't overly impressed with ESPN.

First of all - they spent 30-60 minutes building up the legend of entering the first turn... and when the cars finally get there, they go to THE DIGGER CAM!

And I thought Bestwick was rather quiet in the booth. He didn't say much.

I really hated the overproduced preshow. Who needs all the footage of Harvick walking through glass and picking up broken glass, or pulling pedals off a flower? Get to the interview already.

Stick with the Biff said...

One thing I wanted to add about coverage....really, about the pre race overblown crap. It really was cringe worthy. Just because the place is old, it wasn't 100 years of stock cars.

anyone see the Ed Hinton piece on the Brickyard...? Ouch. I don't think he's on BZF's Christmas list anyways, but he sure wouldn't be now.

Jonathan said...

hmm interesting stuff. I was at INDY so my first taste of this clean coverage will be next week at Pocono

Marty Reid did join the PA guy at Indy during the race broadcast. I heard Marty's voice the first few laps I was thinking what the I thought AB was covering the races, turns out it wasnt the ESPN feed he called the race on the PA system with the regular INDY annoncer!

sbaker17 said...

Excellent mesh in the booth. Seemed that the 3 Amigos had great chemistry together.
For me, the only flat tire in the coverage was once again R. Wallace - A total lack of command of the English language along with inane nonsensical comments. Babble, babble, babble.

GinaV24 said...

Stick with the Biff, I'm with you I watched the show with my mom and I adored Joe Penny!

I read Hinton's article, too and I thought boy, there goes his hard card for speaking such sacrilege.

I honestly thought he was a little harsh in his portrayal of NASCAR "ruining" Indianapolis. Heck, the people who tore Indy car racing apart have to bear blame for that.

Is stock car racing at Indy really exciting? Well no, as we've seen demonstrated to many years now, but it's hard to act like it's NASCAR's fault that they agreed to go there - even if it might make more sense to race at IRP for the whole series instead of moving all of the races to the big flat track.

Anonymous said...

ESPN puts on a quality telecast, as Ned Jarrett stops by the booth.

Coincidence? I think not.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Hey Vince

Did you see or hear Ned Jarrett in the booth.

Vicky D said...

I though AB in the booth was definitely what we have all been asking and what an improvement. Thanks ESPN! I wish they would change the NW broadcast.

Vince said...


Yup, great to see and hear Ned again. Loved him, Bob and Benny years ago.

Not saying his son Dale isn't a decent color guy in the booth, but he's no where near as good as his Dad. Out of the three guys in the booth now, I think he's the weak link. JMO

Anonymous said...

As long as we're talking about William Conrad, I'd like to add my two cents. He may not have looked like your typical leading man, but he did have a great voice. My favorite voice work was when he was the narrator of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. His deep, resonant voice gave a mock seriousness to the ludicrous stories, plays on words, puns, etc.

Now if we could just figure out how to give Conrad's voice to Bestwick, we'd have the perfect play by play man.

The Mad Man said...

While having Ned Jarrett in the booth calling the race while the paid commentators seem to trip over themselves, putting Bestwick in the booth was a smart move on the part of BSPN.

However, the camera work left something to be desired. Way too many gimmick shots and ultra-tight shots made trying to follow the race more of a task than enjoyment.

It would've been nice for them to also show all the causes for the cautions, like they did with Busch throwing the water bottle out of his car. You have to wonder how many of the cautions were caused by water bottles and who threw them out there. But then any excuse for a caution to bunch up the field again for more artificially generated excitement.

BSPN really blew the finish of the race like others have said.

I think the next move BSPN needs to make is dumping Crusty and Drab Brad and replace them with Ricky Craven. Fans want to hear what Ricky has to say.

Palmetto said...

High point of the broadcast had to be Ned Jarrett modestly steering the discussion away from himself and back to the on-track action. What a class act.