Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Edwards Moves Into ESPN TV Booth
Lead Analyst Dale Jarrett is taking the weekend off and joining Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree in the TV booth for qualifying and race coverage on ESPN2 will be Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards. He will also be in that role for the June 29th race at Kentucky Speedway.
"Having a past NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and active NASCAR Sprint Cup driver in the booth will certainly bring some unique perspective to our viewers,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president of motorsports. “We have a very strong on-air team for NASCAR and this addition makes it even stronger."
It was September of 2011 when Jack Roush was answering questions at Iowa Speedway. He was asked about the budding Nationwide Series rivalry between two of his drivers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Edwards. "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 (in 2012). I'm not sure if he is going to just do the companion races or all the races."
That started the speculation that Edwards was following up on his frequent TV appearances during the 2011 season on both TNT and ESPN with an expanded role in 2012. Then, Edwards himself addressed that issue before the start of the current season. He spoke to Insider Racing News reporter Becca Gladden while in the Phoenix area for a golf tournament.
Gladden: Will you be spending more time in the broadcast booth on ESPN in the Nationwide Series this year?
Edwards: We haven’t made a final deal and there’s really no ‘deal’ – you know, it’s not a money deal or anything like that. It just basically comes down to time. If there are weekends where I can go up there and help the broadcast and they’ll let me do it, then I’d love to do it, but I don’t know if I’ll do one race or ten races …
Gladden: There was a rumor out there that you were cutting back on driving in the Nationwide Series in order to do more TV broadcasts.
Edwards: No, that was not my intention. Number one for me is to win the Cup championship. But, I do think – after thinking about it a little bit – I think that I might actually be able to learn some things being up there in the broadcast booth, to be able to watch the races that closely. Sometimes you see things up there that you don’t see either on television or in the race car. So, if it turns out to be something like that, I might do a lot more of them.
Well, the time is now and Edwards is heading into the highest-profile role on ESPN's motorsports coverage with no experience. Well, TV booth experience that is. Edwards is a past Nationwide Series champion and has also spent a lot of quality time over the past season or two popping-up in various support roles on ESPN.
Darlington's Nationwide Series race will feature the typical battle between the Sprint Cup Series cross-over drivers and the Nationwide regulars. Sprinkled in will be stories like Danica Patrick tackling the track and veteran Jeff Green stepping in for Eric McClure, who was injured in a Talledega crash.
The Infield Pit Studio will also return for Darlington so Edwards will be interacting with Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Nicole Briscoe before, during and after the race. ESPN's four pit reporters will also be working, so Edwards will basically be in the key position with a full NASCAR on ESPN TV team at his disposal as the Lead Analyst.
Several times since the season began Edwards has specifically pointed out that his goal this year is to win the Sprint Cup Series Championship and stay focused. Now ten races in, he is 11th in points without a win and has two-time winner Brad Keselowski only one point behind him in the standings.
The interesting TV note this weekend is that the Nationwide Series telecast will have an active Sprint Cup Series driver as the Lead Analyst in the TV booth while the Sprint Cup Series coverage will have a multi-car Cup team owner and part-time driver as the Infield Analyst in the Hollywood Hotel.
All of this points to the struggles of the TV partners to capture and keep the attention of the fan base in the era of online radio streaming, real time social media coverage and the easy recording of live events via the DVR. It should be interesting to watch the fan and media reaction to Edwards on TV this weekend.
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