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ESPN SpeedWorld
ESPNSpeedworld1987.JPG
Title card used from 1987 to 1992.
StarringBob Jenkins
Larry Nuber
Marty Reid
Dr. Jerry Punch
Bob Varsha
Paul Page
Dave Despain
Jackie Stewart
Country of originUnited States
Production
Running time1 to 4 hours (depends on Live or Tape Delay event)
Release
Original networkESPN and ESPN2
Original release1979 (1979) –
2006 (2006)

ESPN SpeedWorld (formerly Auto Racing '79–'86) is a former television series broadcast on ESPN from 1979–2006. The program that was based primarily based around NASCAR, CART, IMSA, Formula One, NHRA, and IHRA. The theme music is based on the piano interlude from "18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)" by Cat Stevens.

History

ESPN Auto Racing (1979–1986)

When ESPN debuted in 1979, one of the first sporting events that they covered was auto racing. Initially the name of the show routinely changed to fit with the corresponding year at the time. Thus, when the program debuted, it was called Auto Racing '79, and then Auto Racing '80, Auto Racing '81 and so forth. This practice was dropped after 1986, when the name of the program was changed to SpeedWorld. The original commentators were primarily Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber, who covered many diverse types of competition. Ultimately, by 1987, SpeedWorld's coverage encompassed not only Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR Winston Cup (and its feeder series such as Busch Grand National, ASA, and ARCA), and IMSA Sportscar Racing, but also racing less familiar to the average person, such as NHRA drag racing, USAC sprints and midgets, rallying, motorcycle racing, monster trucks and more. So many types of racing that were vastly different meant that specialization in broadcasting teams was necessary, so while Jenkins and Nuber continued with Winston Cup coverage, newer faces such as Paul Page and Bob Varsha began to take their places for broadcasts of other racing.

Impact of NASCAR

ESPN began showing NASCAR races in 1981 with the first event being at North Carolina Motor Speedway, which brought NASCAR to huge popularity. The last of its 265 Cup telecasts (that number includes some on ABC Sports) was the 2000 Atlanta fall race (now the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500). ESPN and ESPN2 continued to air Craftsman Truck Series races in 2001 and 2002.

SpeedWorld's final years

After losing the rights to NASCAR Winston Cup (and Busch Series) broadcasts for the 2001 season, ESPN slowly began losing the remainder of their racing to other networks. For their 2002 season, CART signed a TV contract with Speed Channel and CBS, ending ESPN's partnership with CART that had begun 20 years before. NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series left ESPN, also for Speed Channel, in 2003. For 2004 the International Race of Champions likewise moved to the Speed Channel. Since ESPN's reporters were no longer allowed (by NASCAR) to report from within the racetrack for RPM 2Night segments (due to their contract with Fox and NBC/TNT), the weeknight show eventually came to an end. However, ESPN was not completely without racing, as Indy Racing League, its Indy Pro Series development championship, and the NHRA were still on ESPN's lineup.

The SpeedWorld blanket title was discontinued in 2006; the final event aired under the branding was an NHRA championship event in Pomona Raceway. Sister network ABC maintained a package of IndyCar events produced by ESPN (pay television rights are held by NBCSN). NASCAR events would return to ESPN and ABC from 2007 to 2014, holding rights to the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series; these events were instead branded as NASCAR on ESPN. After the NHRA left ESPN for Fox after the 2015 season and the IndyCar Series left after 2018, the only motorsports coverage on the ESPN networks is Formula One races on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 (which is simulcast with Comcast-owned British broadcaster Sky Sports); the last Formula One season ESPN previously covered under the SpeedWorld banner was 1997, before moving to the then-Speedvision and Fox Sports Net the following year (although for a while when Speed aired Formula One, ABC were allowed to broadcast selected, mostly North American, Grands Prix).

On-air staff

This list does NOT include those who appeared on the air on ABC only, or were not a part of ESPN before 2007.

Commentators

Expert analysts (drivers and crew chiefs)

Pit reporters and RPM 2Night contributors

See also