ESPN Readies For Year Two
January 2, 2008 | 2:00 P.M. EST
The 2007 NASCAR season was ABC/ESPN's first year back in the sport after a seven-year absence. The return included 17 Cup races, a package with all ten Chase events, as well as the entire slate of the Busch Series.
That's an impressive schedule and may seem a daunting task, but the networks' approach was to tackle things head on and try to bring viewers as much inside information of the sport as possible.
"We’re extremely excited again to get into the second year, the first year was a ramping up year for us," said Julie Sobieski, vice president of programming and acquisition.
"Obviously with the roll out of the DISH Tech Center, all of the inside information we've been able to impart from a technology perspective has been really exciting this year and we're hoping to expand that moving forward across our different platforms."
In addition to the goal of bringing the technical side of the sport into viewers' living rooms, ABC/ESPN is also faced with the challenge of finding a balance between presenting races to long-time fans as well as those who are new to the sport.
That goal was a factor in the process of developing the networks' on-air announcing team, which includes a mix of familiar faces from the motorsports world as well as a group of more general sports-oriented broadcasting.
While Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, Tim Brewer and Mike Massaro resonate with race fans accustomed to seeing their work over the years, the likes of Brent Musberger, Suzy Kolber and Brad Daugherty were foreign to much of "NASCAR Nation."
But Sobiesky says it was necessary to bring in such talent to help bridge the gap to new fans.
"Overall we want to make a presentation of our NASCAR programming to the fans who have known it, loved it and grown up with it and then also be able to appeal to a fan that isn't as familiar with NASCAR as they are, Sobiesky said."
"It was important to us to build a team that was diverse across their backgrounds. So across the board we take a look at the whole team and make sure we have a good mix of folks who can give varying perspectives during a race."
Although no official announcement has been made, the same core group is expected to be back in 2008.
The addition of NASCAR back to the overall ESPN programming plan is something the network hopes will help continue to establish itself as a place race fans will come - for all types of racing.
With Champ Car, the IRL, NHRA and the World of Outlaws on its schedule as well as NASCAR, the network has evolved back into a home for a variety of racing coverage – much like its early days.
"We have two of the top open wheel series in the country, NHRA which has been with us for quite some time and is a real historic series for us and does very well. We obviously have seen a lot of success with more motorsports fans coming to our network with NASCAR and we were able to see some halo effect to our other sports. We want to be a destination, particularly ESPN2, for motorsports fans."