Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: A Brief 2013 NASCAR TV Season Preview

Hello, race fans. Hope you had a great holiday season. Mine was decent. I got a new camera, then took it to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. I’ll post some of my best pictures from there on my “Facebook fan page”:http://www.facebook.com/WritingOfPhilAllaway/ later this week for you. Let’s just say that I really like my new Nikon 1 J1.

However, pictures of Audi R8’s and Porsche 911’s are not what this column is about. TV telecasts are what we’re discussing here. I don’t have anything to critique this week, but within a few days there will be V8 engines growling and exciting action on television. It is my goal to give you a little preview of what you’re likely to see this year as the NASCAR 2013 campaign revs up.

*Before we get started,* NASCAR made a TV-related announcement of their own on Monday morning pertaining to next week’s inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach. They have announced that SPEED will televise all three features (Whelen All-American Series on Monday night, the Whelen Modifieds and K&N Pro Series on Tuesday night). In addition, all practice sessions and heat races will be streamed live online via “NASCARHomeTracks.com,”:http://hometracks.nascar.com/ NASCAR’s website that covers their regional series.

On the microphone for the practice streams will be the legendary Ken Squier. He will be joined by Stafford Motor Speedway PA announcer Joe Coss, who won the UNOH Battle at the Beach announcer search. For the heat races, Speed51.com’s Bob Dillner, Matt Kentfield, Adam Mackey and Elgin Traylor will handle the commentary.

Finally, SPEED will use different broadcast booths for each race. On Monday night, Dillner will do play-by-play commentary with Hermie Sadler alongside. Ray Dunlap will be in the pits. Tuesday, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds will be in the booth for the Whelen Modified race, while Rick Allen and Phil Parsons will call the K&N Pro Series events. Dillner will work the pits all night.

The NASCAR Season is about to take off. Find out what’s in store with your favorite broadcasters.

*Sprint Cup Series*

FOX returns for their 13th season of NASCAR coverage in 2013. Most everyone returns in their previous roles except for one major change. Last year, Dick Berggren retired from full-time TV work. Who is replacing Berggren on pit road? Technically nobody. The network did not hire a new, fourth pit reporter to replace him. Instead, they will attempt to fill the gap left by Berggren by expanding Jeff Hammond’s roving reporter role.

I was not the biggest fan of Hammond’s role last year on FOX because it effectively booted him out of the “Hollywood Hotel” in favor of Michael Waltrip, who really does not need to be a regular on FOX telecasts. While Hammond is most definitely knowledgeable, I didn’t feel that much of any of his pieces really helped any. They just took us away from action on track. I would be OK with FOX’s move if Hammond were simply the fourth pit reporter and didn’t have the roving stuff to deal with. As much as you guys might not believe me, having him on pit road could be quite the asset, but since he’s going to have other things to do, who knows just how much time he’ll spend on pit road during the races.

ESPN will see no real changes for 2013. Of the 17 races that are part of ESPN’s schedule, 14 of them will air on ESPN, while the remaining three will air on ABC. ESPN’s on-air personalities, including play-by-play man Allen Bestwick, have been re-signed to new contracts. Turner Sports also has no changes on the horizon for their Summer Series.

*Nationwide Series*

For the Nationwide events, they’re entering into year No. 7 of their exclusive deal with ESPN. 14 races will be aired on ESPN, while 13 will air on ESPN2. Four races (Talladega, Charlotte-May, Michigan and Watkins Glen) will air on ABC. Finally, two races will air on ESPNEWS, ESPN’s 24-hour sports news channel.

Why ESPNEWS? Conflicts. The first ESPNEWS race is Richmond on April 26. That race coincides with Day 2 of the NFL Draft. The draft is ESPN’s baby, having literally built it up from almost nothing in 1980 to the juggernaut that it is today. In addition, the interminable First Round of the NBA Playoffs will be going on by then. ESPN, as one of the NBA’s three national partners (league-owned NBA TV and Turner Sports (via TNT) are the others), will be airing games on a near-nightly basis at the time. Honestly, it is not necessarily that big of a surprise the race got bumped here. In the past, the race has aired on ESPN Classic and SPEED for this very reason.

The other race on ESPNEWS will be the Kentucky 300 in September. Here, college football, NASCAR kryptonite, plays a role once again. Currently, there is not a schedule of all the college football games that ESPN will televise in Fall 2013 yet. When ESPN does release such a schedule, I’ll put the link to it right here in the weekly critique. However, it is more than likely that ESPN has blocked out time on both ESPN and ESPN2 to televise night games on that day. Finally, don’t be surprised to see NASCAR Countdown prior to some ESPN races on ESPNEWS once again this year due to college football timeslot overruns.

The only aspect of ESPN’s coverage that is not totally clear at this point is whether they’ll once again use a slightly different on-air crew for Nationwide races, or do what they did in 2012 and use the Sprint Cup crew until the beginning of ESPN’s Sprint Cup schedule. My guess is that Bestwick and company will call the early races before Marty Reid gets to take over later in the year.

Also, there will be some conflicts in regards to ESPN’s Izod IndyCar Series schedule. Indianapolis conflicts with Charlotte, Dover conflicts with Detroit, Iowa (June) with Texas, Road America with the IndyCar race in Iowa and Daytona (July) with Pocono. Those races will see substitute on-air personalities. Also, alternate production crews will handle Iowa (August), Mid-Ohio and Kentucky (September) due to the primary production team covering Sprint Cup.


NASCAR Now continues to get the shaft from ESPN. For the past couple of years, the show has aired weekdays at 3 PM ET with no repeats. For me, that meant that I could watch a little of the show if I took a late lunch. However, for much of my readership, it effectively made the show DVR Theater, or a persona non grata. Depending on how you look at it (or where you live), 2013 might be a miniscule step up or a big step back.

According to ESPN’s weekly press release, NASCAR Now has moved to the overnights. For this week, the show will air at 12:30am ET late Monday and Tuesday nights, then at 2:00am ET Wednesday night and 1:30am ET Thursday night. It’s ugly if you live in the Eastern Time Zone, but maybe not so bad if you’re on the West Coast. As far as content is concerned, the only benefit of airing the show that late is that additional news pieces that ordinarily wouldn’t make the show could be included. Of course, that is still dependent on when ESPN decides to tape the telecast.

*Camping World Truck Series*

SPEED will continue to televise the third-tier series live in 2013. There are no known changes of note at this time. However, it should be noted that SPEED as we know it will change heavily this season. At an unknown time, likely in August, the network will re-brand itself as FOX Sports 1, a new competitor to ESPN. However, the series will not be affected by the rebranding.

*IZOD IndyCar Series*

For the NBC Sports Network, they have some substantial changes for 2013. On their IZOD IndyCar Series coverage, the retirement of Bob Jenkins will result in some changes to the broadcasts. Replacing him in the booth will be Leigh Diffey, who comes over to the NBC Sports Network from SPEED. He’ll be joined by Jon Beekhuis and Wally Dallenbach, Jr., who will return to the telecasts. Robin Miller is apparently back, as will be Kevin Lee.

However, Diffey won’t just be covering the IZOD IndyCar Series. Recently, Diffey has been working play-by-play on Luge telecasts. Interesting. That’s some DVR Theater for you right there. However, Diffey will also serve as the play-by-play commentator for NBC Sports Network’s coverage of Formula One this season. He will be joined by David Hobbs and Steve Matchett, who have also come over from SPEED. This particular trio has worked together before, so more than likely, they’ll mesh together well (Diffey has served as Bob Varsha’s substitute for Formula One coverage for the past few years). Will Buxton will also move over from SPEED to serve as the telecast’s roving reporter.

ESPN has not made any announcements regarding on-air personnel changes for 2013. However, they will televise some new races. Last year, ESPN televised five events on ABC (St. Petersburg, Indianapolis, Detroit, Mid-Ohio (with the NBC Sports Network’s production staff and on-air crew), Milwaukee and Toronto. For 2013, they will televise six races in a six-week stretch. Indianapolis and Detroit return (they’ll televise both halves of the series’ first split weekend), while IndyCar has achieved a coup by getting ABC to televise the Saturday night races at Texas and Iowa. The new 400-mile race at Pocono Raceway will complete the on-air broadcast rotation.

That’s all for now. This weekend, Speedweeks begins in earnest with the Sprint Cup Series holding the non-points Sprint Unlimited. I’d tell you what the format of that race would be right now, but it won’t be determined for another couple of days. In addition, the ARCA Racing Series will have their season debut on Saturday. Here’s your listings…

*Tuesday, February 12*

*Time Telecast Network*
*12:30am-1:00am* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*6:00pm-7:00pm* NASCAR RaceHub _SPEED_

*Wednesday, February 13*

*Time Telecast Network*
*12:30am-1:00am* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*6:00-7:00pm* NASCAR RaceHub _SPEED_

*Thursday, February 14*

*Time Telecast Network*
*2:00am-2:30am* NASCAR Now _ESPN2_
*12:00pm-3:00pm* NASCAR Now Media Day Special _ESPN2_
*6:00-8:00pm8 NASCAR RaceHub _SPEED_

*Friday, February 15*

*Time Telecast Network*
*1:30am-2:00am* NASCAR Now _SPEED_
*5:00-6:00pm* Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited Practice _SPEED_
*6:30-7:30pm* Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited Happy Hour _SPEED_
*7:30-8:00pm* SPEED Center _SPEED_

*Saturday, February 16*

*Time Telecast Network*
*11:00am-1:00pm* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Practice No. 1 _SPEED_
*2:00-4:00pm* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Practice No. 2 _SPEED_
*4:30-6:30pm* ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona presented by MavTV _SPEED_
~*6:30-8:00pm* NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco _SPEED_
*8:00-8:30pm* SPEED Center _SPEED_
*8:00-10:00pm* Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited _FOX_

*Sunday, February 17*

*Time Telecast Network*
*11:00am-12:00pm* World Touring Car Championship: Macau _SPEED*_
*1:00-4:00pm* Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Qualifying _FOX_
*7:00-8:00pm* SPEED Center _SPEED_

*Monday, February 18*

*Time Telecast Network*
*9:00am-6:00pm?* UNOH Battle at the Beach Whelen All-American Series Practices and Heat Races _NASCARHomeTracks.com^_
*6:00-7:00pm* NASCAR RaceHub _SPEED_
*7:00-8:30pm* UNOH Battle at the Beach for Whelen All-American Series _SPEED_
*8:30-9:30pm* Richard Petty: A Racer’s Life _SPEED_

~- Approximate Start Time
*- Tape-Delayed
^- Available via Free Internet Streaming

I will provide critiques of the Sprint Unlimited and the ARCA race for next Tuesday’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday. There will be no Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter this week, but next week, I will cover the UNOH Battle at the Beach.

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 want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons below. Finally, 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.

“Contact Phil Allaway”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/18439/

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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