|NASCAR on ESPN|
|Also known as||NASCAR on ABC|
|Genre||Auto racing telecasts|
|Presented by||Allen Bestwick|
(for other reporters and staff, see announcers section below)
|Opening theme||I Can't Drive 55 by Sammy Hagar (2012-2014) |
"Only the Strong Survive" by Bryan Adams (2010-2011)
"Last Man Standing" by Trailer Choir (2009)
Back in the Saddle by Aerosmith (2007-2008)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Production location||Various NASCAR venues|
|Running time||3-5 hours (depending on race length)|
|Production companies||ABC Sports (1961, 1971, 1975 — 1976, 1979 — 1982, 1984 — 2000)|
ESPN (1981 — 2003, 2007 — 2014)
ESPN on ABC (2007 — 2014)
|Picture format||NTSC (1981–2002)|
HDTV 720p (2007–2014)
|Original release||First run: 1981 — 2002|
Second run: 2007 — 2014
|Related shows||NASCAR Now|
NASCAR Drivers: Non-Stop
Jayski's Silly Season Site
NASCAR in Primetime
NASCAR on ESPN is the now-defunct former package and branding of coverage of NASCAR races on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC. ABC, and later the ESPN family of networks, carried NASCAR events from the sanctioning body's top three divisions at various points from the early 1960s until 2002, after the Truck Series rights were lost. However, ESPN resumed coverage of NASCAR with the Nationwide Series race at Daytona in February 2007 and the then-Nextel Cup Series at Indianapolis in July 2007. ESPN's final race was the Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead–Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014, with Kevin Harvick winning that year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
See also: ESPN SpeedWorld
ABC's involvement with NASCAR began in the days of ABC's Wide World of Sports in the 1960s, in which it presented some of the biggest races in stock car racing. One of its events was the Daytona 500. ABC showed the last half of the race, except in 1976, when it showed the first 30 laps, went to the Olympics and then came back for the wild finish, in which David Pearson edged out Richard Petty with both cars sliding sideways across the track. The race TV rights went to CBS Sports in 1979, who reportedly pioneered live flag-to-flag NASCAR race coverage. For much of the 1970s and 1980s, ABC broadcast NASCAR races on tape delay. The commentary was added later in post production. They would actually sit in the booth and call something live if they needed to for the satellite feed. Otherwise, ABC would do all the editing afterwards for the final telecast.
ESPN began showing NASCAR races in 1981, with the first event being at North Carolina Speedway. The last of its 265 Cup telecasts (that number includes some on ABC Sports) was the 2000 NAPA 500 in Atlanta (now the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500). Even though Fox, FX, NBC, and TNT were the exclusive broadcasters of the Winston/Nextel Cup Series and the Busch Series from 2001 to 2006, the ESPN networks still carried the Craftsman Truck Series in 2001 and 2002 because the Truck races were under a separate contract; ESPN had been broadcasting Truck races since the inaugural race in 1995. Speed Channel took over the Truck broadcasts in 2003.
The TV show promo of NASCAR on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC in 2007 can be seen as a sneak peek in the 2006 Disney/Pixar animated film Cars on DVD and VHS in the 2.39:1 widescreen and 1.33:1 fullscreen versions. ESPN (and ABC) regained rights to air NASCAR races in 2007 after NBC Sports dropped NASCAR at the end of 2006. Each race telecast began with the pre-race show NASCAR Countdown. As of the 2011 season Nicole Briscoe was the usual host, with Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace providing commentary. It was typically 1 hour for Sprint Cup and major Nationwide races and a half-hour for all other Nationwide races. In addition to the races, ESPN2 aired a daily show called NASCAR Now, which was similar to Baseball Tonight and NFL Primetime. It aired daily on ESPN2 and was hosted by Briscoe, with various others substituting. Unlike other league shows on ESPN such as NFL Live, Baseball Tonight, and College Football Live, NASCAR Now only aired during the NASCAR season.
In 2007, 29 of the 35 Busch races aired on ESPN2, with the other five airing on ABC. ESPN2 started its coverage with the Orbitz 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2007. ABC's first race was the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas on March 10. The first NEXTEL Cup race telecast was the Brickyard 400 on July 29 on ESPN. The next 5 races aired on ESPN and the Richmond race and the final 10 races (the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup) appeared on ABC.
The initial broadcast team consisted of Jerry Punch as the lead announcer with Wallace and Andy Petree as analysts. Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro, Jamie Little, and Dave Burns were the pit reporters. Brent Musburger, Suzy Kolber, and Chris Fowler contributed as studio hosts.
In 2008, ESPN moved Wallace and Bestwick from their positions. Bestwick became studio host while Wallace joined the studio team. Dale Jarrett, who had retired during the 2008 season and had worked part-time for the network afterward, joined Punch and Petree as booth analyst. Shannon Spake replaced Bestwick on pit road.
In 2009, the Monday edition of NASCAR Now became a roundtable show, similar to the old Inside NEXTEL Cup show that was on Speed Channel. Bestwick hosts the roundtable; he is also the former host of the Speed Channel program. The panelists rotate and have included Mike Massaro, Johnny Benson, Boris Said, Ray Evernham, and Ricky Craven. Massaro has also filled in as host, including after the 2010 Daytona 500. Beginning with the 2010 season, ESPN carried fourteen of the seventeen races, including the entire Chase for the Sprint Cup except for the Bank of America 500 which continued to be televised on ABC. ABC acquired the Irwin Tools Night Race and kept the Air Guard 400 as part of its race coverage. Previously, ABC aired the entire Chase for the Sprint Cup and the Richmond race (now known as the Federated Auto Parts 400), but NASCAR's decision to standardize early start times conflicted with ABC's expanding Sunday morning political talk show lineup. This led to consternation among ABC's Southern affiliates, who counted on the races as a bulwark against NFL games on competing CBS and Fox stations. This decision was in-line with ESPN taking over the rights to the Rose Bowl and the British Open as part of an ongoing strategy to shift sports programming from ABC to ESPN, to the outrage of many sports fans.
The ESPN family of networks continued to be exclusive home for almost every NASCAR Nationwide Series event. 22 of those races were on ESPN2, with ABC carrying four and ESPN nine. Marty Reid, who for the past several seasons was the lead play-by-play announcer for Indy Racing League events on the ESPN family of networks, became its lead NASCAR voice for the 2010 season replacing Jerry Punch. Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett returned as color commentators, while Punch moved to lead pit reporter. The April 2011 race from Richmond International Raceway was produced and broadcast by SPEED due to conflicts with the NFL Draft and the NBA Playoffs which are also broadcast by ESPN. The April 2013 and April 2014 Richmond races had the same conflicts, but in those years were carried on ESPNews.
On November 16, 2014, the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway marked the end of NASCAR's 30-year, two-stint run on ESPN, dating back to 1981 and also, ending an eight-year stint with the network since 2007. Allen Bestwick, who served as lap-by-lap announcer for ESPN's Sprint Cup Series races since 2011, worked his final NASCAR broadcast on network television, marking the end of his role with the network in 29 years covering the sport and remained with ESPN and ABC covering IndyCar races from 2015 to 2018.
"We look forward to continuing to cover the sport on SportsCenter next and at Daytona and more going down the road. Now for Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber, for Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett, for Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, Allen Bestwick, so long from Homestead."— Allen Bestwick's call for the final NASCAR race on ESPN.
Each broadcast began with NASCAR Countdown, ESPN's pre-race show. Using a mobile pit studio similar to FOX's Hollywood Hotel, the pre-race was typically led by host Nicole Briscoe with Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace. Daugherty and Wallace may be absent for weekends of Nationwide-only races, and Wallace occasionally moved to the broadcast booth for Nationwide races. The studio was not used at Nationwide races where ESPN was responsible for both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at two different tracks. The studio had not been used at Road America events where ESPN had brought a skeleton crew since the race was ESPN's only broadcast of the weekend due to the Little League World Series. The pre-race show was 30 minutes for Nationwide races and an hour for Sprint Cup races. Cuts to commercials saw a plastic NASCAR Countdown logo in city attractions outside the track.
Practice and qualifying session broadcasts also originated from the studio and drivers would occasionally enter the studio during qualifying to preview their runs. Sprint Cup drivers had also been seen in the booth to commentate on Nationwide races.
All races were presented in high-definition, and all cameras, including those in the race cars, were capable of sending out HD pictures. Starting in 2011, in-car cameras were able to provide two camera angles instead of just one.
At the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on April 20, 2007, NASCAR on ESPN unveiled a new feature, "Full Throttle". In this feature, which took place on one restart a race, the audio was provided by various team communications between drivers, crew chiefs, and spotters, similar to Fox's "Crank it Up". Typically, this lasted for about one lap. This frequency had been reduced from its earlier use, and was not seen at all in 2011.
Also in 2011, NASCAR on ESPN switched to a 16:9 aspect ratio letterbox presentation, matching that of Fox. This letterbox presentation, which was seen on ESPN and ESPN2, was not seen on Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races aired on ABC, which still showed the race in the 4:3 standard-definition, non-letterbox format.
When NASCAR returned to ESPN in 2007, the starting grid was shown scrolling across the top of the screen, and it was not discussed. The time was instead used for ESPN's "In-Race Reporter" segment, in which fan questions were asked to drivers over the radio. Fox also used this tactic at the time (doing pit reports over the starting grid), an idea used by Fox from 2004-2008. However, while Fox switched back to traditional starting grids in 2009 and discussing them, ESPN continued using the scrolling grid throughout its entire run. On two occasions, ESPN did run a traditional starting grid with drivers' full names and talked about the grid. These occasions were the 2007 Busch Series race at Mexico City, in which many of the drivers were not regular NASCAR drivers and background information was warranted, and the 2014 season finale at Homestead-Miami, which was ESPN's final NASCAR broadcast.
The ESPN pit studio was one of the most technologically advanced mobile studios in all of sports. It was the size of a big-rig trailer and weighed 78,000 pounds (35,000 kg). The interior was 12 feet (3.7 m) wide and held five production crew members, three robotic cameras and the on-air hosts. The entire studio could be elevated 14 feet (4.3 m) and had 30 feet (9.1 m) of glass so the hosts and the fans could see the track. In 2008, the studio was re-decorated and used by ABC News to cover the New Hampshire presidential primary. The studio also used state-of-the-art LED lighting to light up the hosts.
Many visitors to forums and blogs such as The Daly Planet complained that the coverage seen on ESPN and its related networks between 2007 and 2014 were not up to the standards set by the earlier version of network coverage. Their biggest complaints were excessive commercials, bored announcers, abuse of production technology, and language that seemed to talk down to them. Many said that they had found alternate means of racing coverage, including NASCAR Hot Pass, radio broadcasts, the magazine NASCAR Illustrated and the NASCAR website. Some were even looking forward to the return of NASCAR on Fox, despite the gimmicks inherent to that portion of the racing season.
On October 4, 2008, SportsCenter reported that the Roush-Fenway Racing trio of Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, and Greg Biffle were leading the championship standings. Johnson has always driven for Hendrick Motorsports during his Cup career, and never for Roush-Fenway Racing.
The many changes made in 2008, specifically the removal of on-air personalities with no previous NASCAR backgrounds and the reassignment of Wallace, may have come in response to these complaints.
NASCAR itself was disappointed at the production job done by ESPN at 2009 AMP Energy 500, the fall Talladega race. The morning of the race, in response to recent accidents at the track where cars went airborne (specifically, Carl Edwards flying into the catch fence after being turned in the tri-oval by Brad Keselowski on the last lap of the spring race), NASCAR instituted a rule banning bump drafting during the race. ESPN commentators frequently commented on how boring the race was because of the rule change, despite statistically (with 57 lead changes and 25 leaders) being comparable to past races at the track. The rule change itself proved ineffective at preventing car flips and accidents, as evidenced by Ryan Newman's blowover with five laps to go on the back straightaway, then Mark Martin's turnover in a crash in the tri-oval during the attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, and was quickly reversed before the 2010 season.
ESPN often did not recognize the title sponsors of events in its coverage unless their respective sponsors also pay a sponsorship fee to ESPN. Events without sponsorship deals with ESPN are presented by the network under generic titles with ESPN-furnished sponsors; for example, the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 was once branded as "NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono presented by Old Spice" by the network.
In NASCAR on ESPN's advertising campaign, their slogan was "Feel your heart race", a slogan which had already been trademarked by Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang. The latter's advertising also appeared on ESPN-carried races. This was changed to "Cause it's Racing" in 2010 and "Nothing Beats First Place" in 2011 and 2012.
During broadcasts since 2010, several improvements were made, including reduction in technology. There were also changes in announcing and pit reporters, most notably the moving Jerry Punch to pit road and IndyCar and occasional Nationwide Series lead announcer Marty Reid to lead broadcaster for the majority of NASCAR broadcasts beginning in 2010, including the Sprint Cup races. Sponsorship by non-NASCAR sponsors was also reduced. Allen Bestwick, formerly the lap-by-lap announcer for NBC's NASCAR coverage from 2001 to 2004, took over as lead broadcaster for Sprint Cup Series races in 2011.
Once the Chase for the Sprint Cup began and even in the races leading up to the Chase, ESPN often shifted its focus to the drivers in the Chase, in particular Jimmie Johnson. Often if a driver not in the Chase was leading and was passed for the lead by a Chase driver, he was not spoken of again for the rest of the broadcast. Case in point: in the November 2009 race in Texas, the vast majority of the broadcast was spent talking about Jimmie Johnson despite the fact he crashed on lap 3 and finished 38th. This was a fear of many once the Chase was introduced.
Finally, in 2010, ESPN with the consent of NASCAR, changed the networks that races were broadcast on. While the final eleven races of the season were broadcast on ABC from 2007–2009, all Sprint Cup races except for the three Saturday Night races in ESPN's portion of the schedule were switched to ESPN (the Bristol night race, previously on ESPN, was moved to ABC). This left only 3 races on over-the-air broadcasters for the last two-thirds of the NASCAR season. This, combined with the moving of the Brickyard 400, arguably NASCAR's second biggest race to ESPN, angered fans and sponsors.
Due to ESPN's various sports commitments, there were several interferences with NASCAR broadcasts. This was especially true once college football season started, when Nationwide Series races would often follow an early college football game. The broadcast start had also been delayed by the Little League World Series and ATP tennis. Many times (at least 15 as of 2010), NASCAR Countdown and even the start of the race were moved to ESPN Classic or, later, ESPNEWS. Due to contractual agreements with Turner, ESPN could not put broadcasts with ESPN3, another fact that angered fans. However, in 2011 an agreement was reached letting ESPN put all NASCAR programming on WatchESPN.
In 2010, because of the movement of the Chase races to ESPN and the earlier standardized 1:00 PM ET start times instituted by NASCAR, ESPN moved NASCAR Countdown to ESPN2 for all Chase races starting at 1:00 PM ET to avoid shortening or moving its Sunday NFL Countdown program. Viewers had to switch to the race at 1:00 PM ET from ESPN2 to ESPN. The next year, NASCAR moved the Chase races to later times (2:00 ET, then 3:00 ET for the final three races; Martinsville maintained a 1:30 PM ET starting time because, at the time, that track lacked lights and the grandstands cast long shadows over the racing surface in the late afternoon).
In addition to race coverage, ESPN aired a series of programs called Ultimate NASCAR. The series began in April 2007, when the network began to air a series of 100 one-minute vignettes highlighting NASCAR's most important moments as selected by a panel of experts. The vignettes aired every day until July 29. These moments are also recounted in a companion book published by the network.
In July 2007, ESPN aired a series of related documentaries. Three of them were countdown shows, ranking the greatest drivers, races, and rivalries in the sport's history. The other shows were "The Explosion" (a general overview), "The Dirt" (the origins of NASCAR), "The Cars" (the evolution of the NASCAR race car), "The Families" (an in-depth look at the Allison, Earnhardt and Petty families), and "Speed and Danger" (in which NASCAR drivers discuss the risks they take).
In order to reduce the workload of announcers during the first half of the season, ESPN constantly changed the lineup of those who covered the activities on the race track. In the 2007 season, ESPN used three different lap-by-lap announcers (Punch, Marty Reid, and Allen Bestwick), four different color commentators (Wallace, Petree, Jarrett, and Randy LaJoie), ten different pit reporters (Jack Arute, Bestwick, Dave Burns, Gary Gerould, Jamie Little, Mike Massaro, Marty Smith, Spake, Johnson, and Vince Welch), six infield studio hosts (Musburger, Bestwick, Massaro, Chris Fowler, Erik Kuselias, and Suzy Kolber), and at least four infield studio analysts (Daugherty, Brewer, Wallace, and Ray Evernham). Three times during the season, the network did not use an infield studio for NASCAR Countdown, during the split races (where Nextel Cup and Busch Series were in different venues during the same weekend). Also, none of the talent was at every race. In 2007, Daugherty had the longest streak, being at every race until the Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 16.
The main booth remained the same for all Sprint Cup races.
In 2008, Jarrett was to be granted two months off from the end of April to the end of June to prepare for being the analyst for all 17 Sprint Cup races.
The exact team to be used at each race is listed in an ESPN press release on this page.
See below for a more detailed list of announcers and their roles.
Main article: List of NASCAR on ESPN broadcasters
|SpeedWeek 1983 – 1997|
|1983 – 1989||Dave Despain||1992 – 1997|
|Bob Jenkins||1990 – 1997|
|RPM 2Night/2Day 1995 – 2003|
|John Kernan||*Sunday – Friday, 1995 – 2003||Benny Parsons||1995 – 2000||Bill Weber||1995 – 2000|
|Kenny Mayne||Weekends, 1995 – August 1997||Jerry Punch||1995 – 2003||Matt Yocum||1999 – 2000|
|Rece Davis||Weekends, August 20, 1997 – 2000||Bill Weber||1995 – 2000||Mike Massaro||2001 – 2003|
|Whit Watson||Weekends, 2000 – August 2003|
|NASCAR 2Day 1995 – 2000|
|Dave Despain||1995 – 1998||Benny Parsons||1995 – 2000||Bill Weber||1995 – 1998|
|Bill Weber||1999 – 2000||Ned Jarrett||1995 – 2000||Ray Dunlap||1997 – 2000|
|Ray Evernham||2000||Matt Yocum||1999 – 2000|
|Brent Musburger||2007||NASCAR Countdown|
|Benny Parsons||1995–2000||NASCAR 2Day|
|Brad Daugherty||2007–2014||NASCAR Countdown|
|Bill Weber||1995–1996||RPM 2Night|
|Lap-by-Lap||Winston||Cup||Busch||series||Craftsman Truck Series|
|Bob Jenkins||1981–2000||1981–2000||1995–1998, 2002|
|Jerry Punch||2000, 2007–2009||1984–2000, 2007–2009||2001–2002|
|Color Commentator||Winston||Cup||Busch||series||Craftsman Truck Series|
|Benny Parsons||1985-1986, 1989–2000||1989–2000||1995–2000|
NOTE: Ned Jarrett only appeared on races broadcast by the ESPN family of networks during his time there. He had a separate contract with CBS Sports and was thus precluded from working races televised on ABC.
|Pit Reporters||Winston||Cup||Busch||Series||Craftsman Truck Series|
|Jerry Punch||1984–2000, 2010–2014||2010–2014|
|Mark Johnson||1995-2000, 2007-2014||1995-2000, 2007-2014|