Four days before the green flag drops on the Daytona 500, FOX fed a press release trumpeting fanfare for “the great American race,” as well as a preview of their coverage for the first thirteen Sprint Cup races of the year, not including the All-Star Race on May 19, which will be aired on SPEED, which is operated by FOX Cable Networks.
Not to be outdone, ESPN, whose own Sprint Cup coverage doesn’t kick in until late July, felt the need to already start driving pace laps, and put out its own press release profiling NASCAR events airing on ESPN as well as ABC, including a full-season Nationwide schedule, which begins on Saturday afternoon, also in Daytona. (TNT usually issues a press release once their own leg of NASCAR’s coverage starts in July.)
FOX’s pre-race crew and “Hollywood Hotel” residents will look different than in seasons past. First, with Chris Myers still mourning the tragic death of his son last week, SPEED personality John Roberts will be the lead host. As for Myers’ partner Jeff Hammond, FOX is sending him to the garage, bringing “his extensive experience as a former championship-winning crew chief to where the action is.” Roberts will be joined by the brothers Waltrip, Darrell and Michael. The younger Waltrip may also be a part of the starting lineup for this year’s Daytona 500, pending results from Thursday’s Gatorade Duel. The race announcing trio of Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and the double-duty-pulling Darrell Waltrip, as well as FOX’s “pit crew” of Krista Voda, Steve Byrnes, Matt Yocum and Dr. Dick Berggren, remain unchanged.
FOX also announced other additions and modifications to their coverage, including a “makeover” for the aforementioned “Hollywood Hotel,” a new “virtual car,” designed to enhance the viewer understanding of how a car operates (one of Hammond’s new tasks being assigned to garage duties effective this year) and a smaller “Gopher Cam” – which may or may not impact the mundane presence of Digger the animated gopher on FOX’s NASCAR broadcasts.
Over on ESPN, their NASCAR crew remains mostly intact, with the re-addition of Ray Evernham. He had previously been with ESPN until he departed last year to consult a business venture for Rick Hendrick, for whom he was a crew chief in the 1990’s. Evernham’s duties in 2012 will include co-hosting selected editions of their pre-race program “NASCAR Countdown,” alongside Nicole Briscoe, Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace. Last year, Allen Bestwick was originally announced as the “Countdown” host with Briscoe handling “several races”. The wording in ESPN’s 2012 NASCAR press release seems to suggest this will be the first year Briscoe will be hosting “Countdown” full-time.
(And memo to Krista Voda: Make sure you commit all 43 drivers’ names to memory before interviewing the winner of the Daytona 500… just sayin’.)