Quotes from ESPN News Conference at Daytona International Speedway
NASCAR on ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid and ESPN vice president, motorsports, Rich Feinberg participated in a news conference today at Daytona International Speedway. Live coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series season-opening race at Daytona airs Saturday, Feb. 13, beginning at noon ET with NASCAR Countdown.
Some highlight quotes from the news conference:
What does Danica Patrick face in going from ARCA to NASCAR?
Dale Jarrett — “She just graduated from high school – now she’s going to college. She’s just stepping to a whole other level. She’s with guys now out here racing that have a ton of experience, that are great talents, because she’s going to be competing against a lot of guys that are in the Cup Series, and so that’ll be her best opportunity to really learn, and that’s why it’s so important for her to get her car comfortable, for her team to get it comfortable for her, where she can be in the mix for the majority of the day if not all. Obviously finishing 300 miles would be huge for her. It’s going to be eye-opening. She’s going to find out when she gets out there today, that the car, because of the aero package that’s on the Nationwide cars, the closing rate is going to be greater, the draft has a bigger effect, it’s going to be almost like, even though she did a great job Saturday night, she has to go back to school again here and absorb a lot in a short amount of time. I was one, I can honestly say, just by watching what she did in IndyCar, even though I knew she had a lot of talent in driving a car, wasn’t sure she could come here and mix it up. I was wrong. She did a great job but now it’s on to some more intense test as she gets through this weekend.”
How do you balance the telecast on Saturday to not have too much Danica?
Rich Feinberg – “We actually talked about that in our staff meeting this morning. First of all, I watched the ARCA race, and I thought SPEED’s presentation was very balanced. I enjoyed it. There was a lot of Danica, but the reality is that was why I personally turned on the race, so it gave me what I was looking for. As big a story as that is, there are a lot of other stories here. First and foremost, it’s about racing in Daytona. It’s the biggest race for a lot of people. You win at Daytona and things change for you. And that’s going to be our primary thing. After that, the next biggest story, and quite frankly opportunity for all of us, is Danica. It’s our strong belief that there will be people that turn on Saturday’s Nationwide telecast that perhaps don’t watch a lot of Nationwide races or NASCAR at all, because of the interest in her. We want to serve that curiosity. We want to serve that interest because our belief is if they like what they see, and we provide them what they’re interested in, they may come back next week, and next week, and watch Fox’ Daytona 500 coverage, and read more stories. The more people that watch, the more successful the entire sport is. It’s a balance thing but we also view it as an opportunity.”
How does ESPN respond to criticism that has come from Jack Roush and others that they were too critical of NASCAR?
Rich Feinberg – “Our philosophy is that our job, and quite candidly, our obligation is to serve our fans. What we always discuss in our meetings and on phone calls is that to fulfill that obligation, we need to be honest. We need to be honest with ourselves and our viewers. And like all sporting competitions, sometimes it’s a great game, and sometimes it’s a lackluster game. And all we try to do is give them (announcers) the freedom to offer their opinion, offer that opinion with responsibility, with details behind what they’re thinking, and make sure that we, throughout the presentation, offer perse opinions, and then we let the fans decide. Like anything, whether it’s your writing, or writing a book, or a play, or a television show, they are going to be people who enjoy your work, and then there are going to be people who are critical of your work. We accept that; it’s just part of the responsibility that goes along, but first and foremost, it’s serving our fans and being honest in our coverage.”
As he will be calling all of ESPN’s NASCAR Sprint Cup races this year for the first time, Reid was asked about his philosophy in the booth —
Marty Reid – “My theory’s always been the same. If I’m not excited about it, why should the viewer be excited? The one thing I hope to bring to the broadcasts is an energy level that allows Andy and Dale and our pit staff to do their roles, and for everybody at the end of the day when they’ve spent 3 or 4 hours with us, that they walk away from the television set saying that was time well spent.”
On NASCAR’s new direction of listening to fans and making changes —
Andy Petree – “I’m really excited about this season coming up. In my career, I’ve never seen this kind of a shift in the thinking out of the leadership of NASCAR. How really everything they’re doing in making their decisions, they’re thinking about the fans. And what the fans really want. They want their excitement back, they want their old NASCAR back. I really think that this year, we’re going to see a lot more excitement on the track.”
On rule changes for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series —
Dale Jarrett – “Something that excites me more than anything, and obviously I know this rule wasn’t changed because of me saying it, but I’ve been one that didn’t like the wing on the Sprint Cup car at all. It just doesn’t look like a stock car as we’ve known them for years. I know people go back to the Superbirds in the 70s, but that one didn’t last very long and thankfully this one didn’t, either. So we’re going to get back to these cars looking good and racing hard. And I know people have said when they had spoilers on those cars when they were first tested, man you couldn’t really get close because it made them loose and the drivers were out of control. Sounds like a good recipe to me for some good racing – now that I’m not driving them.”
About NASCAR on ESPN:
ESPN produces comprehensive, multi-platform coverage featuring telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, including the 10-race “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Additionally, ESPN2 is the home of the NASCAR Nationwide Series all season. All television programming is produced in high definition. ESPN’s NASCAR coverage extends to ESPN.com, SportsCenter, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio and ESPN International, among other ESPN platforms. ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup Races over a 20-year period starting in 1981 and returned to NASCAR coverage in 2007. The network’s award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN has been honored with 19 Sports Emmy Awards, as well as many industry honors. It is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide.