ESPN Puts Pedal to the Metal for Thrilling NASCAR Finale
The stage is set for the finale of the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and the Chase for the championship has never been tighter.
Prior to the season-concluding Ford 400 on Sunday, five-time champion Jimmy Johnson is officially eliminated from contention, and Carl Edwards clings to a slim three-point lead in the standings over the surging Tony Stewart.
NASCAR couldn’t have asked for a more exciting finish, and neither could broadcast partner ESPN, whose coverage begins Sunday with NASCAR Countdown at 2 p.m. ET, with the race set to go off at 3:15 p.m.
“It’s very exciting with us being in a situation where we have the closest points race in the history of the Chase,” says Rich Feinberg, VP of motorsports at ESPN, “and, literally, if one of the guys wins, they’re going to win the title. That is our primary focus, but we recognize that there are 43 teams out on that racetrack and anybody can win.”
ESPN will deploy a whopping 72 cameras at Homestead-Miami Speedway, including two stationed high above the 1.5-mile track that will solely focus on the championship contenders, Edwards and Stewart, giving the director the ability to show viewers those two drivers at any time during the race.
“Typically, our camera complement is driven by what we would do on any midsize racetrack,” says Feinberg, “but, because of the nature of the storyline, we added a handful of extras so that we can make sure that we can do our normal thing. But we also have here, on the other side, this coverage that’s specifically to isolate everything that [Edwards and Stewart] do, because, at any point, something could happen that could determine the outcome of the race and, ultimately, the championship, and our obligation is to document that.”
Some of the extra goodies aimed at the contenders include on-board cameras and robotic cams in each of the respective garage stalls, permitting overhead views of race teams 14 and 99 at work during ESPN’s coverage of practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and race day on Sunday — which could prove valuable if one or both must go to the garage for repairs during the race.
The action will, as usual, be broadcast out of NEP’s Supershooters 21, a fleet of trucks built specifically for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage in 2006. The units have been with the broadcast team every weekend throughout the season.
As has been the case with ESPN’s telecasts of the 10 races in the Chase, Sunday’s race will feature NASCAR NonStop, a split-screen format showing advertisements and commercials on the left side of the screen and the racing action on the right side. ESPN’s scoring ticker continues to move across the top of the screen, allowing viewers to follow the running order of the race during the breaks. NASCAR NonStop takes effect at or near the halfway point of the race, with the first half presented in the traditional commercial-break format.
At the conclusion of the race, the newly crowned champion will be interviewed by ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch after climbing from his car, and Punch will serve as emcee for the NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy presentation. The champion will travel to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT, for appearances on various ESPN platforms on Monday.
All NASCAR programming on ESPN and ESPN2 is also available on computers, smartphones, and tablets via the WatchESPN app and WatchESPN.com.