Veterans of TV and Championships Announced for ESPN's NASCAR Launch
NASCAR will return to ESPN and ABC in 2007 with a powerful and experienced team of television and NASCAR championship veterans, led by host Brent Musburger, an accomplished and prominent sports commentator; Rusty Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR champion who made his debut as an analyst in 2006; and play-by-play announcer Jerry Punch, a veteran of ESPN's previous NASCAR coverage.
Television newcomer Andy Petree, a former team owner and the 1993-94 championship-winning crew chief for the late Dale Earnhardt, will join Punch and Wallace as an analyst for a booth with nearly 90 years experience in motorsports. The trio will team with veteran pit reporters with a combined 45 additional years of motorsports experience - Allen Bestwick, Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Mike Massaro.
ESPN also is planning for a comprehensive, up-to-the-minute NASCAR Countdown show to immediately precede all NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series races televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. Musburger will serve as NASCAR Countdown host for all races airing on ABC, including the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and select ESPN races including Daytona and the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. NASCAR Countdown will be telecast from a new, state-of-the-art mobile pit studio that also will be an integral part of race telecasts.
All telecasts will be in high-definition under the leadership of ESPN Executive Vice President, Studio and Remote Production Norby Williamson, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer Jed Drake, Senior Coordinating Producer Rich Feinberg, who led ESPN's NASCAR efforts in the 1990s, and Senior Motorsports Producer Neil Goldberg, who returns to ESPN after producing FOX's NASCAR races the past six years. Feinberg and Goldberg have won numerous Sports Emmy Awards and were part of the team behind ESPN's motorsports series Speedworld, which won 17 Sports Emmys in the 1990s. Richie Basile, who has served as FOX's NASCAR technical director, will direct.
At a news conference at Lowe's Motor Speedway Thursday, ESPN also announced that 1999 NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett will join Punch and Petree in the booth for select NASCAR Busch Series races on ESPN2 and ABC.
"When NASCAR returns 'home' to ABC and ESPN, fans will instantly recognize the passion and expertise that distinguished our coverage for 30 years, but now applied with an unprecedented, multimedia commitment," said ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer. "The extent of our coverage and our talent and production team will set a new standard for service to NASCAR fans."
ESPN's return to NASCAR kicks off with coverage of the NASCAR Busch Series season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 17, 2007 on ESPN2.
"We are proud to once again call ABC/ESPN our partner," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "The team has already shown a remarkable enthusiasm for NASCAR in its preparation for its entry in 2007. Sports fans will be the big winners as ESPN will provide terrific NASCAR content on its television broadcasts and beyond including each of its media platforms."
Drake added, "As we reunite NASCAR with ESPN, we have assembled a deep and knowledgeable commentator team with varied motorsports backgrounds. Our group will bring the excitement of NASCAR to the audience with the same enthusiasm that NASCAR fans have for their sport."
And to get fans prepared for the new season, NASCAR Now will debut on ESPN2 on Feb. 5, 2007, marking the network's first-ever daily program solely dedicated to NASCAR. NASCAR Now will deliver the most up-to-date news and information each Monday through Friday evening and will feature NASCAR reporters and analysts including five-time NBA All-Star and former winning NASCAR team owner Brad Daugherty, former NASCAR crew chief Frank Stoddard, a 14-race winner with Jeff Burton, and veteran racing TV reporter Shannon Spake among others to be named. Musburger, Daugherty, Stoddard and others will work from the pit studio during the NASCAR Countdown shows and during the race telecasts.
ESPN2 is planning special editions of NASCAR Now to air on the day of all NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races, starting with the Daytona 500. A race preview show will air at 11 a.m. ET on race day, with a post-race edition to run on ESPN2 in the evening following the event.
NASCAR Now and NASCAR Countdown will be produced under the leadership of ESPN Senior Vice President/Managing Editor of Studio Production Mark Gross, Vice President of Studio Production Mike McQuade and Senior Coordinating Producer Jack Obringer.
ESPN's comprehensive coverage also will extend to its new media platforms, with extensive coverage on ESPN.com - the leading online sports destination that reaches as many as 20 million fans per month. Among the many features will be a weekly Monday Rundown, Wallace's weekly Rusty Nails It column and regularly updated NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Power Rankings. In addition, ESPN.com will continue to collaborate with the popular Jayski's Silly Season Site that features news, rumors and commentary on the happenings in NASCAR. Additionally, ESPN Motion, ESPN360 and the ESPN PodCenter will deliver comprehensive multimedia race coverage including select live video, on-demand online video and podcasts.
Also in 2007, ESPN Deportes will become the Spanish-language home of NASCAR, highlighted by a special onsite presentation of the NASCAR Busch Series race from Mexico City in March. ESPN Deportes' NASCAR commentator team will feature Andrés Agulla (play-by-play) and Alex Pombo (analysis).
ESPN and ABC will have comprehensive, multi-platform coverage featuring telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races including the 10-race "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" championship on ABC. Additionally, ESPN2 will be the home of the NASCAR Busch Series all season.
ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup Races over a 20-year period starting in 1981. The network's award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN was honored with 17 Sports Emmy Awards, as well as many industry honors. It is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide. ESPN2 is seen in 91.7 million homes, virtually equal to ESPN's 92.3. NASCAR races have appeared on ABC for decades, beginning with broadcasts on the award-winning Wide World of Sports program in the 1960s.