ESPN takes over for rest of NASCAR season
For the Nevada Appeal
I sat in on a conference call on Tuesday with the ESPN broadcast team for the NASCAR Sprint Cup broadcasts. Beginning with Sunday’s Brickyard 400, they will televise the rest of the 2011 season. Allen Bestwick is taking over the anchor spot from Marty Reid, and will be joined in the booth by Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. ESPN has also come up with some interesting technical innovations, including multiple high definition camera feeds from each camera-equipped race car. They also will have NASCAR Non-Stop, a split screen that will show racing on one side and commercial breaks on the other. The IndyCar series has been using a similar format, called Side-by-Side for a couple of years now. I’m sure some fans will love it and some will hate it, but if you’re fast-forwarding through the commercials and something exciting happens, you can stop and watch it. And of course they will replay any crashes multiple times afterward anyway.
It was interesting to hear Jarrett and Petree discuss race strategies and speculate how certain teams would perform at the Brickyard, discuss the merits of new drivers vs. seasoned veterans, and the logistical problems of communication at such a large track. We participants each got to ask a question, and I asked how they thought the Earnhardt-Ganassi team would perform, given Jamie McMurray’s win last year and Juan Pablo’s dominating performance the previous year, until a pit lane speeding penalty took away a sure victory. Petree noted that the team has not done particularly well so far this year, but Jarrett felt that Montoya’s prior experience there in Indy cars and Formula 1 helped with setup and driving style. And Bestwick weighed in with the fact that Indy is very important to Chip Ganassi, who probably devotes some extra effort to winning there.
The broadcast team didn’t think that the predicted poor fan turnout at Indy would affect the racing. Jarrett expressed it best, saying, “Every one of these drivers that show up here this weekend want to be able to hold that trophy, go to that victory lane, kiss the bricks at the end of the day, and it means as much now as it ever did.”
Will Power’s win at Edmonton last Sunday once again tightened up the points in the IndyCar series title run. The Team Penske driver closed to within 38 points of Dario Franchitti of Target-Ganassi (388-350) with just seven races to go. The pair is tied at 235 points each for the Mario Andretti Trophy (road course championship).
Locally, the Reno-Fernley clay oval is back in action tonight with a full slate of NASCAR racing. Information is available at reno-fernleyraceway.com. And the Sports Car Club of America is holding an all-day Performance Driving Experience, Club Trials, and Track Trials event at the Reno-Fernley road course. Go to renoscca.org for more information.