Tuesday, July 17, 2012

ESPN Closes Tech Garage

Tim Brewer was the youngest crew chief ever at Bowman Gray Stadium in his native Winston-Salem, NC. He called the shots for local driver Ernie Shaw. Brewer was 14 years old. Four years later, he became one of the youngest crew chiefs in NASCAR history when he joined the Cup Series team of a popular driver named Richard Childress.

Since 2007, younger NASCAR fans know Brewer for a very different reason. He has been stationed inside the ESPN Tech Garage at both Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races carried by the network. ESPN made a larger commitment of resources to the Nationwide Series telecasts than any network before. That included Brewer's mobile garage and a full infield studio of three on-air personalities.

When coming back into the sport, then ESPN president George Bodenheimer called the Nationwide Series a diamond in the rough. Now, during season six, that diamond seems to have lost some of its luster. The network has confirmed that Brewer's recent hiatus from the Nationwide Series coverage will be permanent.

ESPN returns to Sprint Cup Series coverage in July with the Brickyard 400. The Tech Garage will also not be part of that coverage. This year the final seventeen Cup Series races will be without Brewer on TV.

"It has been a great feature of our NASCAR coverage," said a network spokesman. "We will continue to look for places to showcase the garage where appropriate."

That means that while ESPN did not sell the Tech Garage, the unit is parked. Unfortunately this also affects more ESPN team members than just Brewer. In addition to the camera crew inside the studio, the Tech Garage also had "runners" who grabbed damaged pieces of cars during the race and brought them back for Brewer to explain.

The upside of the Tech Garage was that Brewer presented information that was custom-tailored to each race. During the pre-race show, Brewer's role made a lot of sense and he could show-off the decades of knowledge he had about the sport. His timely reminders of what could go wrong often ultimately told the tale of the race.

It was once the green flag flew that Brewer's role became convoluted. At many tracks, the live action just did not lend itself to creating an opening that made time for Brewer's updates. Often, he became a presence on the air that seemed forced. There are only so many times that tight, loose and push can be explained to the same audience.

With the significant commercial load that NASCAR's TV partners carry, there was often just no natural break to insert Brewer into the coverage. Instead, forcing him in meant missing green flag racing while a technical explanation about a part failure or team change was done. It sometimes meant missing key pitstops while an update on a relatively simple topic was repeated once again.

Brewer's insertions into the live racing became a running joke, especially if there had been no accidents, engine failures or mechanical issues on the track. The producer was once again made to use Brewer who now had no choice but to once again repeat his keys to the race or a basic NASCAR topic.

Perhaps, Brewer's personality and knowledge were used best on the now defunct one-hour Monday NASCAR Now roundtable show. Brewer got feisty at the drop of a dime, never minced his words and kept the old school racing mentality that he developed in North Carolina on display. Host Allen Bestwick clearly loved it.

One truth about sports TV is that comfortable goodbyes rarely happen. Normally, parting is awkward and rarely done under circumstances chosen by the person leaving. This seems to be the case for Brewer, who quietly went on hiatus weeks ago and now will not return for ESPN's stretch run.

His on-air look was unique from his hair to his jewelry. He made no apologies for who he was and never got flustered under fire. It's too bad he never got a TV series that could show-off his knowledge about the sport to the fans and let his personality come out as well.

So, thanks to Tim Brewer. He kept a level head and sense of humor through it all and ultimately ESPN's NASCAR coverage was better off because of his presence. As they say in TV, see you down the road.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

All the posters would slam this guy, but I loved what he brought to the table. Sometimes it was obvious, but most of the times it was very informative.

My son enjoyed having Tim explain things and brought him to being a NASCAR fan.

I will miss Mr. Brewer and segments.

JR

RPM said...

I value Tim Brewer's knowledge and insight. He's a great analyst. But there's only so may times they can show you how to remove a spring rubber or change a battery.

Hate to see Brewer go. The entry level Tech Garage bit, not so much.

AncientRacer said...

The tone of your column JD is exactly how I feel about the departure of Tech Garage; part pleased, part wistful.

Nearly every Planeteer has expressed more than once their opinion about Tom Brewer, his segments and their content; but with the end now here and we who were detractors having got what we said we wanted I, speaking only for me, can not help but think, albeit momentarily, if what I said I wanted was in fact what I wanted.

Buschseries61 said...

Honestly, I didn't even notice he was gone the past few weeks. He seemed like a good guy in a bad role. I wish he had the chance to participate in the race coverage from the infield studio, he seemed like a guy with lots of personality on TV outside of the race broadcasts.

Hope Tim Brewer finds a better opportunity soon. I also hope the tech garage remains parked in Bristol for the remainder of the season.

GinaV24 said...

Yes, we did slam Brewer's tech garage, not his fault, but ESPN's. It's a shame that the information he had to bring to the broadcast couldn't have been used in a better way. Interrupting green flag racing to do this full screen deals for ANY of the TV partners makes the fans unhappy. As you say, his knowledge wasn't in question, the way ESPN chose to present it was the issue.

I'm always sorry to hear about anyone losing their job, so I wish them all good luck and that they find work again soon.

James said...

I am sorry to hear ESPN has made this choice. Tim Brewer was a winning crew cheif and a great spokesperson for the sport. I always enjoyed listening to his prerace insights and he could be very technological when given the chance, A factor that is glaringly missing in todays NASCAR. He was Junior Johnsons go to guy for many years, and acting as spokesperson for that team did a great job. He was Ray Evernham, before Ray came into the Hendrick team. He trained many a savy crew man. The newer fan never saw him change a tire, but he was a great crewman and was highly respected in the garage. I wish him well, hopefully he will land a job where he can display his talents.

KoHoSo said...

Another side effect of losing Brewer is @TheOrangeCone on Twitter loses a big chunk of his material.

I swear, NASCAR television these days seems to be like today's government. No matter what party one likes best, none of them can seem to do anything right or properly use their resources.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
With the departure of Tim Brewer/Tech Garage, another NASCAR TV partner shows its utter disrespect and disregard for new and long-time race fans ...while the buffoonery shown by DW and Mikey do not reflect well on the sport, they continue to be tolerated, in fact promoted ...regrettably a lack of passion for the sport rules when a credible and timely asset is poorly placed or not used effectively in a broadcast ...the fans lose again
Walter

David said...

If only they could replace Rusty with Brewer.

Keith_Kagee said...

Sorry folks, no loss in my book. If only FOX & TNT would follow suit and get rid of Larry Mack Reynolds too.

Anonymous said...

awwww, I will miss Tim. I enjoyed his Tech garage. Maybe he will show up somewhere.

Tracy D said...

His departure means more time for ads, I bet. Sigh.

The Old Schoolers are disappearing on TV.

Adam Wood said...

For a new NASCAR fan or after a major change to the cars, he was great. Otherwise, nothing against Mr. Brewer himself but I really didn't care for his segment after the first couple years.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for the folks who lost their jobs, including Tim. I always enjoyed the show and tell parts where he displayed a piece of the race car and explained the failure or the adjustment being made.

What I won't miss is the tide close-up shots of his hands. Is it just me or does his long fingernails creep-out anyone else?

Anonymous said...

I guess the real question is why did they get rid of the garage/tim brewer? I'm guessing it's not because of Tim Brewer himself....but the costs to bring that and all the staff to each event for only about 10 minutes of air-time each race?

OSBORNK said...

We don't have someone to show us how to lace a football, tie a basketball shoe or make a baseball bat. I don't think we need someone to show us how to put in or remove a spring rubber. Tim is a nice guy who was placed in a bad job. I wish him well and hope someone hires him so he can perform to his strengths.

Vicky D said...

Gee, JD, I'm going to miss the manicured hands and sparkly jewelry!

TheNASCARJunkie said...

Well there goes a wealth of knowledge down the river; If only ESPN would drop Rusty Wallace then and only then would I actually watch an ESPN Motorsports Telecast. NASCAR is a technical sport but ESPN feels there is no real need to articulate the important aspects of performance by having someone around like Tim Brewer. Sad day for NASCAR fans!

Dot said...

I saw this first on Jayski and thought of you JD. Like others have said, I too am sorry Tim B will be unemployed. Maybe they can use a taped piece of him on the pre race shows. It always irritated me when he was shown in the big box/full screen during the race.

Our next mission is to get Adam Alexander out of the booth. He does fine on The Speed Report though.

The Loose Wheel said...

It's a shame to see him go, but as far as the on-air during race coverage was concerned, it made sense. Brewer was absolutely aces on the roundtable. Even when Bestwick pulled him out of a tech role and let him analyze what happened the day before.

Hopefully he will turn up somewhere. Maybe a NASCAR Performance would be a good landing spot. Tech centers have never been a bad idea, but it's just always been awkward when you incorporate a full set into the mix.

Charlie Spencer said...

While I'll miss Tim personally, I don't think his segments were effectively inserted, especially during green flag segments. I feel the same way about similar pieces on the other networks.

However, if the broadcast partners are in a cost-cutting mood, I -strongly- suggest they look next at the infield studios / hosts / 'Hotels'.

Lisa Hogan said...

I agree with what OSBORNK posted.

ESPN continues to hire talented people and then doesn't know how to use those talents.

I wish Mr. Brewer well.

oldirtracker said...

I will not miss Tim Brewer at all, the only person I know of that can butcher the english language worse is Larry Mac. Tim was a heck of a crew chief and had an ego to match. I hope maybe he will go back to what he was good at.

Dennis said...

Would like to see Tim return but in a more useful role. Tech Garage was a waste of his talents.

Joj said...

I will miss Tim depth of knowledge - who else can tell us tires are filled with air in NASCAR? or tell us tires are the only part of the car that holds it to the track?

I hope he gets a job that does not require him to utter such drivel. Way beneath him. Good luck Tim.

tonybct said...

that's a damn shame, maybe his segments would have gotten better reception if he waved his arms around and talked like an uneducated hillbilly like Larry Mac, HISSELF,or tried to be Joe Cool, like old "coon- eyes" Hammond, he played it straight, just the facts, that doesn't play

GinaV24 said...

Charlie, yes, if they are into cost cutting, I think many of us could do with a few less personalities in the booth/infield studios. I'd be happy with "a little less talk and a lot more action" in the words of Elvis.

Zetona said...

I won't really be sorry to see Tim go. I always found his explanations to be pretty bad, lacking key logic or details. I couldn't poll any uninformed fans, but I imagine his explanations wouldn't have enlightened them much as to how or why certain things were done to the car.

Haus14 said...

In all honesty, they could have kept the tech garage parked in Bristol and had Tim work from there. No one would have ever known the difference since there are no windows in the garage. Would have been a great way to save on fuel costs, etc.

Anonymous said...

it does not surprise me at all just goes along with the fact that nascar racing is continuing to decline people r finaly fed up with only certin teams winning and the caution flags near the end of races to bunch up the field...

Anonymous said...

I will miss Tim and the garage. They should have someone directing the broadcasts who has been directly involved in racing so as to use the talents they have better. Tim should have been used as a color man. He sure is colorful!

Anonymous said...

"This is where the wheel goes." Sorry it had to be said, won't miss the tech garage at all. If only ESPN would stop covering NASCAR all together.

Anonymous said...

My view is that Brewer, Hammond and Larry Mac were Super Star Crew Chiefs back in the day. I have nothing but respect for what they achieved many years ago. But the technical complexity of Nascar racing has changed dramatically. Sure, even with the COT with an inch and a half of suspension travel and 3" diameter sway bars, the basics of chassis tuning still apply. But I doubt that any could be of help if I plugged a lap top into today's McLaren EFI system and started tweaking injector pulse width. Likewise I'm sure they're not proficient with today's use of friction coatings,thermal barriers and DLC's (diamond like carbon) in the motors. Certainly, for those not familiar with Nascar technology, a guy like Brewer can be helpful pointing out the various bits and pieces talked about during the broadcast. One area Brewer and others get called out on is where they jump to conclusions without knowing the pertinent facts. A car will head to the garage with white smoke coming out the exhaust. Brwer will state it's a broken valve spring and point to it on the cutaway car. Then, fifteen minutes later, after a spark plug is removed from a cylinder not firing and a bore scope is inserted, it's reported that a lean condition melted a hole in the piston. Oops. As stated above, if you want to do a tech garage segment, you can do it from Charlotte during a long caution. Or, you could watch Nascar Performance. Just one person's opinion....

Anonymous said...

I like this post from another article on the new FOX extension.

I enjoy FOX more than I enjoy the other networks. TNT doesn't do a bad job (of course half everyone on that broadcast is on loan from fox). I wish ESPN/ABC will bow out of the NASCAR world again and cover over sports like they really want to. They do not cover the races well in my opinion and there freakin ticker at the bottom is annoying as heck. They are more worried about other events happening and could care less about NASCAR (they change network because another game is in progress, or they jump out of telecast after the race and make you watch the post race stuff on ESPN news or sportcenter. To me I wish FOX could share the whole season with TNT or cover the series out right like they did when they took over in 2001. ESPN has the Nationwide series, and Speed has the Truck series, so give FOX exclusive rights to the CUP series.

The posts about the delay. I'm ok with the delay. I only watch the broadcast on fox and sometimes I may change over to the in-car's on directv (that is where you can see the delay in question), but the delay is a non issue in this. Also, the Waltrips are way better than the guys on ESPN (who changes announcers all the time because they cant get it right). again, TNT is pretty much a fox step sister in a way.

Go get them FOX.

With this said. ESPN is horrid compared to the other 2 networks. Announcers are dry and have no personnality. Fox and NBC are least fun to watch and listen to.

Kontje said...

What may be over-looked is that Brewer and his Tech Garage won a sports broadcasting EMMY in 2008, the first ever to be awarded to a auto racing telecast team/network....“We’re humbled that our efforts associated with both the ESPN Pit Studio and the ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage were recognized,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports. “Both are unique in our industry and are used as key elements of our NASCAR coverage.”.....It was innovative through the introduction stage of the COT car.
Perhaps the executive Producer should be shown the door. Brewer's a keeper.