ESPN Targets Next-Gen NASCAR Fans With Nationwide Coverage at Daytona
While Fox Sports may boast the headlining race at Daytona this weekend, ESPN will be plenty busy as well, carrying Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opener. The race will cap off ESPN’s two weeks of Daytona Speedweeks coverage and wave the green flag on the network’s nine-month NASCAR Nationwide schedule, which the network sees as a gateway to the next generation of NASCAR viewers.
“One of our goals is appealing our product to a younger audience base,” says Rich Feinberg, VP, motorsports, production, ESPN. “Many of the drivers in the Nationwide Series potentially represent the future of the sport. For us to have the ability to tell the stories and to document the journey through the season with our Nationwide coverage puts us in a really good place.”
Different Yet the Same
ESPN’s production operation at Daytona is similar to previous years’, with NEP SS21 (A, B, C, D, and E units) serving as the primary production unit. The network has rolled out approximately 65 total cameras (both broadcast and ENG) throughout the venue, which also matches last year’s complement. Although the gear and camera complement is mostly status quo this weekend, Feinberg says, ESPN will continue to seek out new ways to integrate innovative technologies as the season progresses.
“As we finished last year and start this year, technology always remains a focus of our telecast, in addition to entertaining and storytelling and documenting race coverage,” he says. “[But] first and foremost, it’s about racing in Daytona. It’s the biggest race for a lot of people. You win at Daytona, and things change for you.”
The Studio Situation
In addition to the Nationwide 300-mile race on Saturday (as well as practice and qualifying sessions on Thursday and Friday, respectively), ESPN once again has a sizable on-site studio presence at Daytona.
The network’s Pit Studio, which it has used since 2007, is set up in the infield, behind pit road with on-air talent’s back to the track and grandstands. The Pit Studio serves as the home for Saturday’s pre-Nationwide-race NASCAR Countdown and four installments of NASCAR Now (Thursday, Friday, and pre- and post-race Daytona 500 editions on Sunday). ESPN also produced a three-hour edition of NASCAR Now from NASCAR Media Day on Feb. 14.
ESPN has also deployed its green-screen–equipped “horse trailer,” which is parked in the infield and used for driver interviews throughout ESPN’s coverage.
At the Front Bench
At SS21’s front bench will be director Richie Basilie, ESPN’s lead NASCAR director since 2007, and producer Jim Gaiero, who produced the bulk of ESPN’s Nationwide telecasts in 2012, though not Daytona. With the exit of former Sprint Cup producer Jamie Shiftan, Gaiero now moves into the lead-producer spot — both at Daytona and for ESPN’s Sprint Cup slate, which revs up in late July.
ESPN’s NASCAR Countdown begins Saturday Feb. 23, at 12 p.m. ET followed by the Nationwide Series race from Daytona at 1:15 p.m. ESPN2 will televise the Nationwide practice on Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. and qualifying on Feb. 22 at 3:30 p.m.