Jarrett, Wallace Climb Back in the Car to Kick off ESPN’s NASCAR Coverage

ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace will return to the cockpits of NASCAR racecars at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, taking high-speed laps together around the 2.5-mile oval while recording material that will be used in the NASCAR Countdown. The program will air at noon on Saturday, Feb. 19, prior to ESPN2’s live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona at 1:15 p.m.

ESPN’s cameras around the track will document the event and each vehicle will be equipped with in-car cameras. In addition, Jarrett and Wallace will be able to speak with each other while on the track via radio communication. The two former Sprint Cup champions will be getting a feel for the new Daytona pavement to help them in their analysis for ESPN.

Following the NASCAR Countdown special, ESPN’s coverage of the 2011 NASCAR season launches with a live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opening race at Daytona on ESPN2.The 300-mile race’s green flag flies at 1:34 p.m.

Thirty-three of the 34 races on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule this season will appear on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. ESPN also will televise the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the season, including all 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Fourteen of the 17 races will air on ESPN, with three Saturday night races appearing on ABC. ESPN’s NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage begins July 31 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In addition to race coverage for both series, the networks also will televise practice and qualifying from select races, season preview and review programs and a special Chase preview. Each race includes a dedicated pre-race program and coverage on ESPN2’s NASCAR news and information program, NASCAR Now.

ESPN’s NASCAR race telecasts will be produced under the oversight of ESPN vice president, motorsports, Rich Feinberg and senior coordinating producer Jill Frederickson. NASCAR Sprint Cup races and selected Nationwide Series races will be produced by Jamie Shiftan while Jim Gaiero will produce other Nationwide Series races. Richie Basile will be director.

ESPN’s team of announcers includes Jarrett, Wallace, as well as two-time champion crew chiefs Tim Brewer and Andy Petree. Lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid will join Jarrett and Petree in the booth for race telecasts, with pit reporters Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch. From the newly-designed ESPN Pit Studio, Allen Bestwick will host NASCAR Countdown with analysts Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Brewer will report from the ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage during race telecasts to help viewers better understand the technical and mechanical aspects of NASCAR racing.

Bestwick and Burns will each step into the lap-by-lap announcer position as fill-ins for Reid for some NASCAR Nationwide Series telecasts while NASCAR Now co-host Nicole Briscoe will host NASCAR Countdown for several races. Wallace, Daugherty and NASCAR Now analyst Ricky Craven also will help call some races from the booth as fill-ins for Jarrett and Petree. NASCAR Now co-hosts Mike Massaro and Shannon Spake will work as pit reporters for selected races as will Rick DeBruhl, a pit reporter on ESPN’s coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series, and Jim Noble.