Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: It’s Time to Preview Our NASCAR Telecasts

Hello, race fans. So, the offseason is officially over. Yee-haw. Welcome to year four (for me, at least) of race telecast critiquing. This year, there will be some slight changes, the first of which you’ve already seen. That’s right, a brand new series title. While I’ll admit that Couch Potato Tuesday is not something I came up with, I’m cool with it.

I had inherited the Talking NASCAR TV title from my predecessor, Doug Turnbull, back in 2009 and wasn’t really in love with it. However, there will be no change in focus. I’ll still be here to criticize bad aspects of telecasts and praising good ones.

The Critic’s Annex in the Newsletter will be back as well, but it will not run every week. We have a new feature that will run in its place once a month that we will be announcing quite soon.

Having said that, we’re going to take a brief look at what NASCAR’s TV partners have to offer for us this season. I’m going to hold off on covering TNT for now since they don’t start their series until June.


As of right now, ESPN plans on maintaining their Sprint Cup booth from last season when they return in July. That means that Allen Bestwick will return for his second go-around of calling Cup races. Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree are back as analysts, while Nicole Briscoe, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty will sit in the Infield Studio. Daugherty has claimed that he is considering attempting a Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville later this year if he can get himself up to speed, but there hasn’t been any word on that in a couple of months.

There has also been no word on any changes in the pit reporting corps for 2012. The only likely addition is Ray Evernham’s return to ESPN on a part-time basis. It is currently unclear what his role may be.

For the Nationwide races, it is a little bit more unclear. Marty Reid appears to be back in some capacity this season, but he will not be in the booth in Daytona. Instead, according to today’s ESPN release, Bestwick will do the play-by-play for now. Petree will be there as well. For the driver analyst, it looks to be a rotating spot. Jarrett will do some, but he’s known to take a few weeks off during the Nationwide-only portion of the season. Who will take that position?

According to the Bangor Daily News, Ricky Craven has re-signed with ESPN through the end of 2014 as an analyst in five Nationwide race telecasts. However, he will spend most of his season as an analyst on NASCAR Now. Expect Rusty Wallace to step in that role as well.

Editor’s Note: The original version of this piece read that Marty Reid was likely to be in the booth for the Nationwide race in Daytona. ESPN has quashed that notion.

Then, there is the Carl Edwards question. Jack Roush let the rabbit out of the hat last year when he inferred that Edwards would be doing some TV work for ESPN in 2012. Regardless of what ultimately happens, Edwards appears to have an open opportunity there.

Additional pit reporters will include Jim Noble, who is apparently set to work 12 race weekends for ESPN in some capacity, along with Rick DeBruhl and Shannon Spake.

For NASCAR Now, they are still saddled with the 3 p.m. ET time slot – which bites, simple as that. They still have that slot even though Jim Rome recently left ESPN for the CBS Sports Network. They could at least give them the 3:30 slot instead of The Best of First Take. Worse yet, the one-hour roundtable shows that Bestwick hosted have officially been nixed. Those shows were interesting to watch. I’ll miss them. Monday’s show has a 2:30 a.m. ET re-air (you know, for DVR/TiVo purposes), but don’t put that in stone.

NASCAR Now will continue to have a revolving door of hosts. Mike Massaro hosted Monday’s edition, while Nicole Briscoe, Shannon Spake and others will rotate in for future shows.


Officially, there will be no changes in the race telecasts themselves. The broadcast booth remains unchanged for the 12th year – Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds all return – which has to be some kind of record for race telecast consistency. The pit reporters are also all back for another go around.

The real changes will be in the “Hollywood Hotel.” Namely, Jeff Hammond has gotten the boot out of said Hotel during the Pre-Race Show. Hammond will now serve as a roving reporter and apparently has some more toys to play with. These toys have not been announced yet, so stay tuned.

In Hammond’s place, Michael Waltrip will be in the Hotel along with brother Darrell and Chris Myers. The double dose of Waltrip is something worth watching. Will they dominate the proceedings or will it be more civil? Also, will Myers stop playing the fool? He’s too smart for that. Also of note, Rick Dickert is back for another year as FOX’s “Storm Scout.” Rick, I’ve got nothing against you, but I don’t really want to see you all that much on the telecasts. Rather not deal with rain delays this year.


For SPEED’s Camping World Truck Series coverage, it appears to be more of the same that we saw in 2011. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will all return in the broadcast booth. Hermie Sadler is back for 2012, after the possibility of reassignment was raised, along with Ray Dunlap. Krista Voda will once again host the Setup.

The practice telecasts will likely be similar to what we saw in 2011 with no set booth crew. I wouldn’t be surprised if Voda got some more booth time, but that isn’t guaranteed.

NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot, SPEED’s pre-pre-race show, will be back in 2012 full bore. However, there is one change. Sadler is off the show, replaced by Matt Clark. Trackside is also back with Voda as the full-time host (Last year, a midseason switcheroo put Rutledge Wood in the hosting chair). Wood returns, along with Kyle Petty and Marianela Pereyra.

I also mentioned earlier that Evernham is gone from SPEED. He has been replaced by Ricky Rudd, a complete newcomer to television that has been enjoying his retirement over the past four years. Rudd will serve as a weekend analyst on SPEED Center.

In addition, SPEED has also hired former Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo to serve as a Social Media Reporter. According to SPEED’s release, Palumbo’s position will see her work with producers to create original content for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube while also providing reports on location and social media updates.

On paper, this appointment makes Pereyra seem expendable, but perhaps her role on Trackside will increase this year to offset some of her 2011 role being taken away and given to Palumbo.

NASCAR Performance, the technical showcase of NASCAR technology, will be shot at SPEED’s Charlotte studio. Danielle Trotta has been installed as the new host of the show, which will still feature McReynolds, Hammond and Chad Knaus. We’ll see what Trotta’s hosting role ultimately consists of on the show. However, I believe she’ll do fine.

Finally, we have NASCAR RaceHub, which will continue Monday-Thursday at 6:00 p.m. ET. Unfortunately, that show has lost their overnight replay. The show still has a 7:00 a.m. ET repeat, but that slot is not exactly ideal. Steve Byrnes and Trotta return as hosts for the hour-long show.

That’s all for this week. This weekend is the official start of the NASCAR portion of Speedweeks. The Sprint Cup Series cars will be on-track for the invitational Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night, while Sunday afternoon will see Pole Qualifying for the Daytona 500. Meanwhile, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards has their season opener, the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. Here’s your listings.

Thursday, February 16

Time Telecast Network
12:00 – 3:00 p.m. NASCAR Now Media Day Special ESPNEWS

Friday, February 17

Time Telecast Network
5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Shootout Practice SPEED
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Shootout Happy Hour SPEED
8:30 – 10:00 p.m. Budweiser Shootout Selection Show SPEED*

Saturday, February 18

Time Telecast Network
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 SPEED
2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 SPEED
4:30 – 6:30 p.m. ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 SPEED
6:30 – 8:00 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot SPEED
8:00 – 10:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Shootout FOX
11:30 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane Fueled by Sunoco SPEED

Sunday, February 19

Time Telecast Network
12:00 – 1:00 p.m. NASCAR Now ESPN2
1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying FOX
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. SPEED Center SPEED

*- Tape-delayed

I will provide critiques of the Budweiser Shootout and the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 in next week’s critique here at Frontstretch. Next week, I may cover Darrell Waltrip’s new book: Sundays Will Never Be The Same: Racing, Tragedy and Redemption – My Life in America’s Fastest Sport.

If you have a gripe with me or just want to say something about my critique,
feel free to post in the comments below or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you would like to follow me via Twitter, you can go to my Twitter page here. And if you would like to contact any of the TV partners personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following links:


As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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