Editor’s Note: ESPN’s NASCAR race coverage begins with the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway today. The NASCAR Countdown pre-race show airs at noon. This is the conclusion of a two-part look at how NASCAR Countdown is produced from the point of view of host Nicole Briscoe. Friday, we posted Part 1.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR Countdown host Nicole Briscoe and producer Jeff Ingalls spend much of their Friday afternoons at racetracks working on formats for the show, while they also look at video and graphics that might become part of the next day’s program. She also goes to the garage area to talk to some drivers and crew chiefs.
“I try to look at everything so that nothing that hits the TV screen is new to me,” Briscoe said. “Before the show, I’ve seen and heard it all, and that puts me in position to be able to help the guys that I’m with to put the best information out there.”
While Briscoe and the analysts plan what they are going to say, the program is not scripted word-for-word, and there’s no prompter.
“I can write whatever I think I’m going to say, but when you’re in the moment and things are happening, you can’t follow an exact script,” Briscoe said.
“Most of it is ad-libbed.
“It’s really a big help to the director to have a rundown,” she said. “If he has an idea of where we’re going, he can then pick from his 60-some cameras and pick the best video that goes with what we’re talking about.”
After an extensive rehearsal in the 90 minutes before airtime, NASCAR Countdown is on. And as is always the case with live TV, things change and can go wrong on occasion. Technical difficulties are out of Briscoe’s control, but even a slight loss of time can affect the rest of the show.
“Say we’re scheduled to interview Kyle Busch at straight-up noon, but maybe he has a sponsor appearance, or somebody stops him to ask for an autograph and we don’t get him at noon, we get him at 12:03,” Briscoe said.
“That may not sound like a big deal, but when you’re only working with 45 minutes of content, because you have to work in commercials and stuff like that, it throws things off.”
In the end, Briscoe sees the host role as more than just the traffic cop who keeps things moving.
“I’m working with guys who’ve been in this sport and lived it,” she said. “But, I’m not a driver and I’m not a crew chief. I’m coming from the perspective that I think the fans come from, so I always like to tell people stuff that they wouldn’t already know.
“I think I’m in every fan’s dream job.”
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Follow Nicole Briscoe on Twitter @RB_Mrs