ESPN NASCAR Coverage Settles Into Cruise Control

By Ken Kerschbaumer

With ESPN entering its third year of NASCAR coverage this weekend at the Daytona 500, the production is finding its groove on and off the track. Shifting its focus from technical innovation, the production team is targeting the goal of the day: finding more efficiencies.

“Between ourselves, Fox, and Turner, we all work together, sharing cameramen, merging schedules, and we’re always looking at finding more efficiencies,” says Neil Goldberg, ESPN senior motorsports producer. “We work together as one team.”

This year’s on-air product, he adds, will build off of last year’s great package. “The beauty of this coming out of ESPN and ABC Sports is that it grew out of the world of broadcasting, where things are built as needed. We’re just being really smart, with everybody coming back and having the systems operating like they did last year.”

NEP will once again provide the production trucks that will be the backbone of ESPN’s production. Extra technical touches, such as the Draft Track system, which allows viewers to see the airflow around a car, will also be back when the race warrants it.

“We’ve discovered Draft Track doesn’t make sense at a track like Bristol or Richmond,” says Goldberg of tracks with racing styles that don’t allow drafting to become a true race factor. “We’ll use it when it can enhance the coverage and help tell the story.”

While the NASCAR community watches to see how the current economic climate impacts ticket sales (there are still tickets available for the Daytona 500), fans staying home could translate into higher ratings. Of course, one advantage over last year is, the cost of gas once again makes it affordable for fans to travel hundreds of miles for a race.

Adds Goldberg, “We just hope people watch at home and also come to the track, where they can get four hours of entertainment.”