In 2015, NASCAR will be under new TV contracts as FOX and NBC will be spearhead all of the NASCAR broadcasting. With that said, this season marks ESPN’s last year being involved in the TV package (unless they come back down the road) and as a result, the organization was brought under question by fans.
Many fans questioned ESPN’s commitment to the sport and whether they would deliver the goods this season. With the first Nationwide Series race of the season in the books, it’s so far, so good.
The coverage kicked off with some great pre-race features that captivated the sport in a nutshell.
The first feature titled “The Final Lap” spoke about a long-term Dale Earnhardt fan Mitch Zanette who died of cancer last year in Daytona’s infield. Knowing that he was dying, his family brought him to Daytona to full-fill one of hte items on his bucket list – attending the Great American race.
Narrated by Dale Earnhardt Jr., many fans were tweeting that it brought them to tears. Bringing forth the human element in the story, it brought the family element of racing to the forefront. Also as analyst Brad Daughtery mentioned, the fact that fans use sports as a way to escape and have fun amongst other things, but find it embedded in them and pass it through the family.
Building on that, ESPN did a feature on Chase Elliott and the fact that he is following in the footsteps of his father Bill Elliott. But rather than just simply talking to the Elliotts, they went to Dawnsonville, Georgia and told the story of the ‘sireen’. Every time Bill Elliott would win a race, Gordon Pirkle would sound a siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room. As mentioned in the story, the tradition will be continued. Once again, another story that captivated the spirit of NASCAR in not just the competition, but the family element.
The last feature was on another rookie as they talked to Ty Dillon about the pressure of moving up to the Nationwide Series and running with the same team that older brother Austin took to the championship. Dillon had many key lines to say throughout the piece that will certainly stand out in fan’s minds for days to come in showing Ty’s personality and his competitive drive. Two of the key lines that stood out to me were “Even there’s someone putting pressure on me, I’m going to go out there and work twice as hard to prove that I’m twice as good.” and “It makes me want to work harder and prove that I deserve to be here, not just a spoiled rich kid. I work hard with my guys.”
Moving on to the race, the broadcast was solid as Dale Jarrett, Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree called a solid race from the booth as they showed the key elements, well also informing possible new fans on rules and bring up crucial points, espically when it came to ever-debatable “tandem drafting rule”.
To cap it off, the post-race coverage was great as they did multiple driver interviews – covering all top seven finishers and their thoughts on the race.
I could possibly call this broadcast an A+, but I kept it at an A. There were a couple of times that they were away at commercial when it came to a wreck or pit stops. That’s understandable, though, as they do have to take care of their partners and sometimes things happen when it’s least expected. You could say that the other negative of the day was the anthem performance – but that’s not their fault as they didn’t hire the band that came to perform the anthem.
Earlier this week, Bestwick was on hand in the NASCAR media center and the exact question was brought up. Bestwick recalled when he was at NBC for their final season in 2006 before the coverage shifted and in the production meeting then, producers told Bestwick and team to finish the year strong. Now they’re back in the picture for the NASCAR broadcast for 2015.
“The same is and will happen here. It’s in nobody’s interest, personally or professionally, or the company’s interest, business‑wise, to do anything but keep our right foot pressed all the way to the floorboards, and that’s what’ll happen,” Bestwick said. “When we get to the end of the season and we’re done with Homestead and we set the headsets down on the desk, I’m sure there’s going to be a hell of a party, because you spend a lot of time with people who become like a second family to you, and when that run ends, it’s a little tough.”