Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ESPN's Odd Man Out


On a weekend where three races dominated the headlines, a little blurb of TV news still has NASCAR fans and media members talking.

Jack Roush answered a post-race question in Iowa about tension between star driver Carl Edwards and young gun Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Nationwide Series. Roush said he would control it this season, but next year it would not be an issue.

"I think he's (Carl) made his decision," said Roush. "I think he is going to become a sportscaster for ESPN for the Nationwide Series races. I'm not sure if he is going to just do the companion races or all the races."

When veteran reporter Bob Pockrass from scenedaily.com contacted ESPN, the network spokesman said he had "nothing to announce" about the topic at this time. That's a pretty good indication that Roush was right on the money.

When ESPN opens each season with the Nationwide Series race in Daytona, the network has eleven on-air voices. Three announcers are up in the TV booth and four reporters are on pit road. There is a host and two analysts in the infield studio and of course, Tim Brewer in the Tech Garage.

During the season when one on-air personality takes a vacation there is simply a little switch of roles and the show goes on. Since 2007, ESPN has built up a group of approximately twenty on-air talent who work on race telecasts.

Last weekend was a great example of the depth of personalities. Marty Reid, Ricky Craven and Kenny Schrader worked the Iowa race with Jim Nobile, Rick DeBruhl and Shannon Spake on pit road.

Meanwhile, the 2011 starting line up of Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree called the Sprint Cup Series race in Pocono. Nicole Briscoe, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty manned the infield pit studio. The four pit reporters were Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns.

All of this raises a very interesting question where Roush's recent Iowa remarks about Edwards are concerned. It's not likely that ESPN is going to put four men in the booth, use Edwards as a fifth pit reporter or squeeze a fourth person into the infield studio.

The bottom line is that in order for Edwards to join the team, someone has to go.

It's very doubtful that Dale Jarrett will be moved from the booth. Jarrett and Bestwick are ESPN's NASCAR TV future for the next several years. The other former driver on the team, Wallace, just had his contract extended by ESPN until 2014.

Petree and Brewer both bring to the table a veteran crew chief perspective that Edwards lacks. That leaves only one person in the mix. Is Daugherty the odd man out for ESPN next season?

It's been an awkward TV role for Daugherty since Bestwick christened him the "Voice of the fans" years ago. Daugherty is a cheerleader for the sport who speaks in politically correct generalities. Since he became a Sprint Cup Series owner, his comments are even more generic and his role has lessened.

Daugherty came to this NASCAR on ESPN TV package with an agenda. He and NASCAR chairman Brian France co-founded NASCAR's Diversity Council several years ago.

"Brian said to me that the cultural impact of this is huge and I think that's what intrigued me the most," Daugherty told NASCAR.com in 2006. "I thought that if I don't step up and take this opportunity, who will? It probably wouldn't be another African-American. So I felt some responsibility as well as being a big racing fan who loves the sport."

These days, the color of Daugherty's skin makes little difference to TV viewers. Last year, ESPN's struggles to provide compelling Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series telecasts resulted in an emergency meeting with NASCAR in Charlotte, NC.

ESPN has spent the last four seasons featuring the Nationwide Series until late July when the network's Sprint Cup Series coverage begins. Shortly after that, the Nationwide telecasts are unceremoniously sandwiched between two college football games in a timeslot that usually guarantees the pre-race show will never see the light of day.

Suddenly, the series gets lip service from disinterested announcers on a TV network completely in a stick-and-ball frenzy over college and pro football. Since 2007 the Nationwide Series has been thumped over the head with a TV hammer by ESPN from September through November. It's affected the sponsors, the ratings and the sport in general.

Arriving at Daytona in 2012 along with Carl Edwards will be Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana. The Nationwide gang is betting on Patrick and Pastrana to bring the media focus back to a series that has long been ignored by TV networks, including the one telecasting the races.

It should be fascinating to see how ESPN positions Edwards for Daytona and if a member of the existing on-air team steps aside to make room for him. Once Edwards puts on his TV hat, it will also be interesting to see how Nationwide Series drivers, team owners and TV viewers react to his opinions and analysis.

As an ESPN NASCAR analyst, Edwards will still be a full time Sprint Cup Series driver who is closely associated with one manufacturer and employed by a major team that continues to race in the Nationwide Series. That's a tough sell.

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

37 comments:

Andy D said...

I don't see the need for a crew chief on the announce crew. Any competent driver can provide the basic strategies as well as a crew chief can.

Crew chiefs would be very helpful if they wished to provide us with useful information. To stop explaining push, wedge and why round tires are better. But as it stands, no, Larry Mac isn't imparting any secret info that Jarrett wouldn't know about. That said, Edwards and Jarrett may be clashing personalities. Carl is energetic and Dale is homey.

I think we can do without the infield studio too, but I've said enough already.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Tough sell, indeed ...an active driver in the booth or in a regular on-air role puts ESPN and NASCAR at cross purposes ...more like heading down the wrong road ...many more-qualified voices available mean 'Cousin Carl' overload is likely even before Speed Weeks is over ...it's bordering on over-exposure right now ...another case of tail wagging the dog and ESPN over-reaching to resolve an issue easily addressed by improving the quality of the telecast.
Walter

earl06 said...

Love to see Rusty get the axe but we all know that won't happen.

Ray was in the infield studio a bunch with both Rusty and Brad so I don't see that someone has to go.

Sally said...

Carl puts on his 'personable' face for TV easily. But, since we know that Nascar doesn't hesitate to keep their thumb on drivers who say anything that isn't the party line, won't this just be another 'cheerleader' for all things wonderful in Nascar? Considering how many confrontations Carl has had with several drivers over the years, it could be entertaining to see how/if he manages to handle that. It really would be best if they just cut back on the number of talking heads...especially those with their own agenda.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen ESPN's coverage of other sports? They just keep adding more and more and more people. I'm sure they will do the same with NASCAR.

GinaV24 said...

Brad D sure isn't MY voice as a fan. I could make more compelling comments on the topics than he does.

So the only reason he's in the booth is to fulfill BZF's diversity model? Wow, I'm impressed. Actually I'm not, that depresses me, especially since Bill Lester who was a solid driver couldn't get sponsorship to keep driving. What about the other young ladies and young men who can't get sponsorship to drive? Weren't they supposed to be part of NASCAR's diversity program? Well, we have Danica, so I guess that fulfills that need. oh joy!

I'm not thrilled that Carl will be in the booth for the Nationwide series for ESPN. This choice once again puts a conflict of interest front and center. I don't care how photogenic or charismatic he may be, while he's competing in Sprint Cup, I'm not interested in hearing him "commentate" on a weekly basis.

I made the decision last year NOT to listen to Carl's post race booth activities. I can choose to tune out again this year, but I find it frustrating that I have to do this.

James said...

When Brad first came on the NASCAR scene he was a bit of an anomaly and it is true that he was dubbed the "voice of the fan", but Brad decided to become an owner and got involved with MWR and the sad part is, he adds little to the broadcast, except as you mentioned JD, his political correctness.

I believe it’s time to flush the birds into the air, with the addition of competent pit reporters, all the fans need is maybe Tim Brewer at the cutaway car and the three people in the booth. If part of the cost is a commercial issue, let us first cut the booth staff and give the fans ears a break, with less commercials. If Rusty an Nicole and Brad and Jamie are let go, maybe we could see one less commercial, I vote for that.

We were reminded of the great Neil Bonnett a few weeks ago and his seamless transition to the booth, that started an avalanche of former drivers and crew chiefs into TV, some are good, some not so much. I have no use for Larry MAC, the man cannot speak ENGLISH and when paired with others he drags them down to his vocabulary. He may have a redeeming quality, he knows the weather, well get a former weather person we can understand to replace him, and then he will be freed up to help his son with his career.

When there was only one show a week on NASCAR we were given more in a half hour than what we see now. Again, RACE Hub is only down the street from most of the shops, therefore it is easier to get the "HOT" guest.

The theory of a cutie reporting on racing has proven to be a bust also. Only Wendy comes from a racing family and knows the history of the sport, but when she LIED about the BS "apology" about Kentucky Speedway, she lost my respect.

Does it not bother anyone when Indy drew a slightly larger crown than Iowa did for a NNW race?

ESPN has really done a fine job of recognizing and fixing it problems, but you still have to look out the window and call the on track action, no matter what video is being shown to the fans, if a PxP person fails to do this, their services are not needed.

So, to sum it up, its time for changes, and I agree with you 99% of the time. The Danica and Pastrana SHOW should be quite entertaining and will definitely bring attention to the NNW series.

OrangeTom said...

Glad I'm not the only one who remember's Neil's stellar but too brief time in the booth. He made more of an impression in his first month on air than Brad has in five years. I still don't get why he is there, which doesn't speak well for ESPN or him. Seems like a nice guy but that doesn't make him on-air worthy

Wisconsin Steve said...

I still think Brad would be a greater asset for ESPN if they let him do some interviews and features. People in the garage really seem to like him - they should take advantage of that.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Steve,

Could not agree more! Early on we asked if Brad was going to be allowed to roam outside of the pit studio.

He was given a shot in the booth for one NNS race, but nothing else was thrown in his direction.

There is no doubt he is an interesting person with a strong love of the sport.

It might have been different for him, but it certainly has become a tough TV role.

JD

Nature Boy NC said...

I can easily see myself experiencing 'Carl Edwards burnout' next year, and I say this as an Edwards/Ford fan.

Ir42nate2bhere said...

ESPN adds bodies because they can. Urban Meyer was added to NCAA football staff, did they need him, no, but they added him, it is what they do. This hire does not change Sprint race day anyway as Carl still has his day job.

Michael Stoffel said...

We're already at Carl Overload. Imagine when he gets a weekly seat on-air....

I love the idea of Brad Daugherty as a roving reporter type. His strength is the way he interacts with people, not him sitting in a booth in a suit.

PDXLeelaB said...

Carl in the booth does not sit well with me. In the car he is fine and his agression can come out whenever he feels like it. He is one heck of a driver and he will win the Cup soon. If he puts on his TV face for ESPN it will make him look even more two faced then he does now. Schrader needs to be in the booth more often because he made the Nationwide race fun. I know he still races but if ESPN can get him for part of the season it would make me very happy.

Anonymous said...

We find that ESPN is doing a very good job with the people they have and really don't need Carl very bad. If anyone really needs help it is Fox. They seem to want to annoy their viewers more than please them. The same old tired crew year after year does not make a good show. DW keeps chasing viewers away but Fox seems to be happy with that scenario. They have been told how people are annoyed with their Digger and boogety nonsense but they continue with it anyway. Lots of good points to ponder JD. Keep up the good work.

Buschseries61 said...

I mentioned this in your first post on Edwards' new role. ESPN has over 17 people to arrange in so many ways.

It makes sense to have Bestwick, Jarrett & Petree in the booth. The trio works very well. I don't see the four pit reporters changing either. Brewer and his toys will return as long as Craftsman pays. That leaves the small infield studio which has a new host learning the job and two analysts looking for a raise. I can see ESPN squeezing 4 people in the infield, like Ray Evernham's addition. That would keep Wallace, Daugherty and add Edwards. But ESPN loves Carl, I think they want him talking more than once every half hour in the infield. So my final guess is Edwards joins the booth as its fourth member. I think Brad is safe.

old97fan said...

I like Michael Stoffel's comment and would like to see it explored further. Maybe Brad could do the feature interviews. I don't think Brad needs to be in the booth but he does have a gift in interviewing/conversation and would hate to see him completely go away.

The issue of popularity has me torn at the moment. When Nascar had it's biggest fan base, a lot of those fans weren't really racing fans. The were part of a natural cycle of a fad that has since passed. I don't mind them spending their money in the sport but if we chase their whims we will lose what racing is about. The other issue is that at some point Nascar needs to put it's foot down with ESPN about it's treatment of Nascar compared to Stick and BAll sports. I do see a lot of improvment in the event broadcasts but if they want to keep treating Nascar and other racing for that matter like a stepchild, then maybe they need to negotiate a better deal with a network that actually wants Nascar around and drop the ESPN stick and ball snobs.

Matt said...

I have no problem with an active Cup driver in the TV booth for NW races. Those of us who have been around long enough remember that Benny Parsons, Darrell Waltrip, Larry Mac, Kenny Wallace and Hermie Sadler all started their TV careers while still being active drivers/crew chiefs. Maybe times have changed a bit, but as long as Carl provides good, solid analysis, I have no issue with it.

As for Brad D, I'd love ESPN to use him to do a "pit walk" at the end of the pre-race show, similar to those done on SPEED's F1 coverage and Versus' Indycar coverage. I think it'd be fun to see Brad running down pit road grabbing anyone he could find to talk to. He could then stay and do garage interviews with drivers knocked out of the race, this way the Pit Reporters don't have to leave pit road. Again, those of us around a while remember TBS employing this latter strategy with Johnny Hayes, Chad Little, and some of the others I mentioned above. By looking at what others are doing now and have done in the past, ESPN can find a place for Big Brad, which would be great for everyone.

Fran Akridge said...

I like Brad - but it might be partly based on college basketball being my third favorite sport (after NASCAR and college football). Edwards is super in the booth - best driver type since Benny Parsons. Please don't make the choice be between Carl and Brad.

Anonymous said...

We are ONLY talking about Cousin Carl working NW races - and AB doesnt work NW races anyway so thet could easily take DJ out of the booth or perhaps DJ and AP and have Marty Reid work with Carl and an announcer to be named later.

Ken S said...

I may be wrong, but what other professional sport lets an active player in the booth as a fulltime analyst for a season?

I think NASCAR should put a stoppage to Cousin Carl's apparent NWS anayst job in 2012.

ESPN already has enough "experts" in the booth to cover the Nationwide Series. Let Carl concentrate soely on the Sprint Cup car for Roush/Fenway and associated tv commercials.

OSBORNK said...

Carl is already overexposed. He needs to drive and shut up. I'm a fan of Carl but enough is enough. He can't really express himself because he will be subject to a secret fine if he deviates from the NASCAR line of propaganda.

Pamela said...

Dear ESPN,
These last two weeks have found me praising you for your race coverage. Sure, there's a couple of little things that bother me, but hey, you can't please all the people all of the time. BUT, I beg of you, please DO NOT put Carl Edwards on TV any more than he already is! My husband and I wondered if his sponsors pay a little extra to get him interviewed, having in car cameras seems like every week, and he keeps showing up in the booth. Enough with this guy already, sheesh!

glenc1 said...

let me 'pile on' to the Brad doing interviews idea. I watched him stroll down pit road last year at the Glen (he kinda stands out, even without binoculars, lol.) He was stopping along the way, chatting with people, laughing, joking around... I would think he would be a natural for a 'pit walk' or something like that. They might struggle a little with the camera angles though (see the photo with Danica....)

Gymmie said...

Steve & JD--as long as they don't do that embarrassing thing they had for a hot minute years back where he went around essentially begging for food.

bowlalpo said...

I'm OK with Carl commenting on NNS. It is a rare opportunity to have one of the sport's stars, who would have been on the track hours earlier, giving his insight, and Carl sounds like he has command of the language.

What worries me more is how far ESPN has gone and how much further they'll go. To compare, CBS used to have 7 talkers on even their non-Masters golf tournaments; now they've cut it to as few as 4, sometimes with no on-course announcer until the last group finishes the 16th. NBC has also cut back on same, and both networks still do a good job. But ESPN had 8-10 commenting on the British Open, and the BBC International feed (with Jim Nantz' help!) blew them away.

ESPN does not NEED 11 or 12 announcers for a race. Two or 3 in the booth and 3 or 4 on pit road will do it. Is it just another reason for ESPN to go back to cable systems with empty buckets, when they had been filled seconds earlier with commercial $$?? Was the commercial-free escapade late Sunday afternoon another tactic to serve the same purpose?

ESPN thinks they can just keep raising their asking price but there will come a time when we will start saying "no." I wish they would follow the lead of the destitute networks and find how they can put on a quality product without the excesses.

Dot said...

Well I see the trend continues. Carl almost commits 1st degree murder (taking out Kez on purpose) and gets rewarded by being on TV. Look at all the criminals on all those reality shows. Good grief.

I wonder if nascar had anything to say about him being in the booth during qualifying last weekend. Carl even said it gave him an advantage watching others before he went out. I'm not a Carl fan and I am not looking forward to seeing him anymore than I have to.

JD, do you know if there were any repercussions about Rusty and Brad saying they needed raises? Whether we heard it or not, it was tacky to say while actually doing your job. It's one thing to say it away from your job but, right in front of everyone you work with?

Jimbacca said...

Carl is already over exposed. He's proven to be a bully, unstable and lacking good judgement when it's not his way. If he is on, it's either mute or fast forward on my TV. The way the networks 'listen' I'm sure he will be lead reporter. It is sad that he has been dubbed 'the future of Ford'.
Schrader gives fantastic unbiased informative input. They should find a way to utilize him more.
If they take Andy out of the booth put him in the tech garage.

As far as Brad. He seems personable and little ra ra sometimes. Let him roam free like Ruttledge and see what happens. He can't do any worse then the 'expert'.

Kathy16 said...

To those comparing to other sports...this is really kind of different--there isn't another sport where the top team & the lower series are in the same place at the same time. That said, since Carl would be competing against the other teams (owners) in Cup, I think it's inappropriate.

taking out someone on the track is not, nor ever was, attempted murder. If it was, Brad is just as guilty for 'dega. And he nearly took out spectators. Just sayin'....and I'm not a Carl fan.

Anonymous said...

I want the old days of hearing Ned Jarrett and Buddy Baker call races!!!

Rusty and ole DW get downright aggrivating.

Anonymous said...

It is not whether Edwards would be great or terrible in a broadcasting role for espn. Either way, it is wrong. You are condoning conflict of interests, personal agendas, biased reporting, and a complete disregard for the integrety and creditability of the sport and the media. See RW's/espn's/nascar's response to SW's wreck. Oh, wait. We are talking about espn and nascar. My bad. MC

Robert Powell said...

I like Carl and I think he has a great future in broadcasting. BUT, he needs to finish his successful racing career and then go up to the booth. Its a natural progression that has worked in every sport I follow. As far as Brad D, he seems like a great guy and I enjoy his perspective. Don't screw it up ESPN, Carl's not ready and Brad is a proven asset.

jerry said...

How much could he be on TV if he's running most of the companion races? I don't see him traveling to Iowa or wherever non-companion races will be. Something does not add up here.

sbaker17 said...

R. Wallace has a contact thru 2014 with ESPN. Wondering if it is strictly to do auto racing or if they can assign him to do the poker tournaments instead?

Daly Planet Editor said...

jerry,

Carl will not discuss his NNS plans and has led the media over and over again back to putting the focus on his Sprint Cup Series contract issues.

What Roush said is Carl is out of NNS next season and will be working for ESPN.

Neither ESPN or Edwards will comment on that topic.

Tim S. said...

Within the last couple of years, around the time of year in which Alan Kulwicki was killed, I watched an ESPN program (probably a pre-race) where Daugherty was present. He told a story about sitting on a plane next to Kulwicki and speaking with him at length that perfectly fit in with the theme of the segment at the time. A large percentage of the people watching at the time probably had very little idea who Kulwicki even was, and Daugherty helped them get to know him a little better. Rarely do I ever feel as though Daugherty adds anything, but in that moment he showed he has some knowledge. I just wish he knew how to use it better. Then again I could be way off base here, because I always thought Benny Parsons did a less-than-stellar job of using what he knew too.

Vicky D said...

I enjoy listening to Brad D because he's so enthusiastic for the sport. However, how is Carl going to have time to do the NW races and race in the cup series. Some weekends it'll be tough and like someone previous said it'll be Carl overload that's for sure.