Nbcs Old Dogs Get New Tricks

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Alas, not everything out of the new NASCAR television deals is bad for viewers. We were beginning to wonder there for a while.

Indeed, NBC Sports producer Sam Flood revealed earlier this week that next season, all of NBC's NASCAR events will be rerun on TBS that evening.

Think about it. No more messed up VCR settings. No more busted up family outings to get home to watch a race. No more fighting over the remote.

Thanks to the close relationship between NBC and TBS, viewers will have another shot at seeing races they might have otherwise missed. There is a God.

Meanwhile, Flood has had a year to prepare for the Peacock Network to become one of NASCAR's TV homes. No surprise, the time has been well used.

This weekend, when NBC airs the Pennzoil 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, Flood & Co. will be testing out some new technology that could become a standard part of NASCAR telecasts in the future.

"Among the things we're looking at are some audio enhancements to capture the feel of the track," Flood said. "We'll also be testing a camera this weekend that will zip along the backstretch."

The camera uses the same technology NBC has incorporated into its telecasts of horse racing's Breeder's Cup and in some other sporting events such as track and field. The device allows viewers at home to race alongside the horses as they're making a run for the finish line.

But NASCAR, of course, is a different type of horsepower.

"We're not sure how fast we can get it going," Flood said of the camera. "The important thing is to be able to test it and see what we can do. It should create a great experience of speed."

NBC, along with Fox and TBS, become of the official outlets for NASCAR's Winston Cup and Busch Series coverage next season under a $2.5 billion, six-year deal.

NBC, which will share its coverage with TBS, is set to air its first race under the new deal on July 7 from the Daytona International Speedway. NBC, a relative newcomer to the NASCAR field, will have the benefit of having a half a season to work out kinks in its coverage, while Fox, which begins with the Daytona 500, will have to do so on air.

The network isn't going into the venture blindly, mind you. Veteran broadcasters Allen Bestwick and Benny Parsons will man the booth, with ESPN's Bill Weber hosting a prerace telecast and serving as the network's lead pit reporter.

Also in the pits will be Marty Snider, Dave Burns and Matt Yocum. Joining Flood behind the scenes will be Mike Wells, who has directed ESPN's NASCAR telecasts since 1981.

The network will launch every Winston Cup event with a prerace show hosted by Weber, although Weber is downplaying the prerace aspect.

"You want to be able to take the fans places they can't go, and show them things they can't see," Weber said. "One term I think we'd like to try to do away with is prerace. That's not what we want to do. The message we want to get to the fans is that if you don't tune in, you're going to miss something that will enhance your experience."

Viewers nearly didn't get to see Weber on NBC. He was under contract at ESPN, where he was considered one of the most-respected pit reporters in the business. However, initially ESPN wasn't willing to let Weber out of his deal. The thinking outside the network was ESPN was upset over losing NASCAR and was holding Weber's future up until it could be assured access to footage from NASCAR events to air on its racing shows such as "RPM2 Night."

Weber said he doesn't know why he was released, just that he got a call from ESPN giving him an opportunity to move on. It was as simple as that.

"I think they did something that may not have been in the best interest of the company, but that was in the best interest of the people who work for the company," he said.

This weekend, NBC will do a limited test of the "No Brakes" coverage, which TBS implemented during its telecast from Charlotte last month. The coverage uses picture-in-picture technology allowing networks the ability to shrink the race coverage and keep it on the screen while also running a commercial. TBS got a great response in October, leading NBC to the test.

And don't think for a minute that the folks at NBC will sit idling early in the season while Fox takes the coverage.

Indeed, both Parsons and Bestwick say they'll spend their down time attending races and mingling in the garages in order to stay on top of the sport.

Parsons said he may also host a weekly, 30-minute racing show for TBS.

"I don't think we can just start on July 7 and be on top of our game," Parsons said. "You need to stay in touch with the issues," Bestwick added. "And you can't do that when you're 800 miles away from the race track."

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