Lame Duck ESPN Promises To Give Full Effort
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When the green flag waves over Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, ESPN’s coverage of the sport officially goes into lame duck status.
For the final time in the foreseeable future, the “Worldwide Leader” will broadcast 17 races of this year’s Sprint Cup season and the entire Nationwide Series schedule.
But as rival network NBC waits in the wings and prepares to fill the void in 2015, the crew at ESPN still intends to give a full-blown effort.
“Our company has dedicated tremendous resources to us,” said ESPN lead announcer Allen Bestwick, who will transition into the same role of ESPN’s coverage of the Indy Car Series.
“Our plans are exactly the same. We’ve been here before we even started the season. We covered live on the air Brian France’s press conference, including the question-and-answer sessions from Charlotte. We had four hours coverage of media day last week.
“Nothing changes, and we’re here to do our job. We have some great plans and we look forward to a great season.”
As Bestwick and fellow announcers Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett met the media this week to discuss a wide range of NASCAR-related topics, they were asked about rookie Austin Dillon putting the famous No. 3 Chevrolet on the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“He can win here on Sunday, as can a lot of others,” said Jarrett, a three-time Daytona 500 champion. “(Dillon) is with an organization that, historically, has done very well at this race track. They come here with fast race cars.
“He’s got a lot of talent, and that’s putting a lot of pressure to say that a rookie can come in here and win.”
Petree wouldn’t be surprised to see the second-generation post several good finishes in NASCAR’s top series this season.
“He’s got a lot of diverse talents and I think the biggest thing is he takes care of his equipment. I think that’s his biggest attribute.”
Parker Kligerman made national headlines on Wednesday following his spectacular crash during Cup practice near the start-finish line on the 2.5-mile trioval.
Kligerman was uninjured, but the contact ripped an opening in the catch fence designed to protect fans from debris. Fortunately, there were few spectators in the bleachers at the time.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. considered the incident to be another accident and felt driver safety wasn’t compromised. But he conceded that NASCAR must continue to focus on fan safety.
“As a driver, your gut feeling to your core is that you’re as safe as you’re ever going to be in that car,” Earnhardt said. “But I feel like there is still a lot to be learned as far as how to protect the spectators and how to do some things with the catch fence that can prevent things from going into the stands.
“And I think NASCAR understands that and we’re, obviously, learning year and trying to learn and trying to improve.”
Chase Elliott was 5 years old when his dad, 1988 Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott, won the pole for the 2001 Daytona 500.
The second-generation, who will campaign for rookie of the year in the Nationwide Series, doesn’t remember that week. He said memories of his dad’s racing career only reaches back to “Awesome Bill’s” victory in the 2003 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.
During his son’s successful Late Model career, Bill Elliott is a fixture on the spotters’ stand each time the engines come to life. But that won’t be the case when the younger Elliott competes in NASCAR’s junior circuit.
“He usually spots for me in our short track races,” Chase Elliott said. “But he has a little bit different role there than he does here. This is a different atmosphere for both of us.
“He won’t be spotting this weekend. But I’m sure he’ll have a good seat wherever it is.”
– Jeff Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments