Tuesday, February 21, 2012
ESPN Sets NASCAR Starting Line-Ups
This is season number six of NASCAR on ESPN. Along the way, there have been ups and downs as there always are in any major event series on national TV. This year, the core of the line-up is returning but there are some changes.
Heading into Daytona, it will be Allen Bestwick stepping into the Lead Announcer role in the TV booth replacing Marty Reid. Last year, Bestwick was inserted into this role just before ESPN's Chase coverage began.
Reid was relegated to the Nationwide Series races for the remainder of the season, but is not returning for Daytona. Reid's name is listed as an occasional host for the NASCAR Now program, but expect to see him back on ESPN's IndyCar races and working select Nationwide Series telecasts in the booth.
Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree are the workhorses for ESPN's NASCAR coverage. Petree has been there for the duration with Jarrett now firmly entrenched in a role the network first gave to Rusty Wallace. The current pairing is working just fine.
Wallace continues his role as an infield analyst alongside Brad Daugherty on the NASCAR Countdown program hosted by Nicole Briscoe. This season Daugherty continues as a Sprint Cup Series owner, but Wallace had to put his Nationwide efforts on hold. That was especially difficult for him as it left several family members, including son Steven, unemployed.
Briscoe has proven effective in the role of getting comments on specific topics from the infield analysts without clogging up the live telecasts as ESPN tended to do in the past. She has also proven to be a trooper during rain delays and even weathered the emotional storm after friend and IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon lost his life in a racing accident.
Dr. Jerry Punch told Scenedaily.com that he has settled his differences with Kurt Busch after an incident last year that ultimately cost Busch his ride. Punch returns to anchor the same pit road crew of Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns. Expect to see Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake in these roles as well as the season progresses.
Briscoe and Massaro will once again team up to host NASCAR Now from ESPN2's Bristol, CT headquarters. We mentioned Reid may also appear, as will in-house ESPN announcers Lindsay Czarniak, Mike Yam and Michelle Bonner.
Marty Smith returns as Lead Reporter with Spake also working for the show on the road. Contributors include Ryan McGee, Terry Blount, David Newton, Ed Hinton and former pit crew member D.J. Copp.
To add a little zest to the weekend preview version of NASCAR Now, ESPN hired AJ Allmendinger as a field reporter. His Daily Dinger feature will air on the weekend show and contain offbeat interviews with anyone and everyone he finds interesting.
ESPN announced this week the network extended the contract of analyst Ricky Craven. He will continue to work the weekend NASCAR Now shows from the studio as well as other programs during the week on other ESPN Networks. Craven also gets out of the office as he will work in the TV booth for five Nationwide Series races.
The two names expected to be included in the starting line-ups were Carl Edwards and Ray Evernham. Jack Roush flatly said last season that the reason Edwards will stop racing in the Nationwide Series in 2012 is to move into the booth with ESPN and become a "sportscaster."
Edwards most recent comments on the topic came to reporter Becca Gladden in an interview while Edwards was working on the air for the Golf Channel in Scottsdale, AZ. Edwards clearly enjoys TV work, but told Gladden his focus is driving in the Sprint Cup Series this season.
Evernham is a mystery. He says that he is finalizing some TV plans that will be announced soon, but is not named in ESPN's official news release. We do know that Evernham will not be back on SpeedCenter over on SPEED, where he has been replaced by Ricky Rudd.
Word on the street was that Evernham was rejoining ESPN in an analyst role that would keep him in the mix but not take up too much of his time. Since the one-hour Monday NASCAR Now show is gone, Evernham would be a natural for joining the mix either in the TV booth or infield as the season went along. We will keep you posted.
Finally, we have to celebrate the fact that Tim Brewer is ready for another season of being locked in the Tech Garage for the duration of the races with parts and pieces ready to go in case something happens on the track. Brewer puts a lot of time and effort into his work and has become something of a cult classic on ESPN's coverage.
There are three years remaining in the current NASCAR TV contract with negotiations expected to begin for a new agreement this season. Whether or not ESPN returns depends on a lot of factors, but NASCAR Chairman Brian France has said he would like ESPN to continue in the sport.
We welcome your comments on ESPN's starting line-ups for this season's NASCAR coverage. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.