Editor’s Note: ESPN’s NASCAR coverage begins with the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 25. The NASCAR Countdown pre-race show airs at noon. This is Part 1 of a two-part look at how NASCAR Countdown is produced from the point of view of host Nicole Briscoe.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — When race fans tune in to ESPN’s NASCAR Countdown program, they see a smooth-running pre-race show that gets them ready for the upcoming race.
But behind the scenes, a team of people puts in many hours each week to produce the show, which airs twice in a weekend during ESPN’s portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.
As host of the program, Nicole Briscoe is one of the most visible members of the team. From the ESPN Pit Studio with analysts Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham, she keeps the show moving and on schedule. But she also plays an integral role in the show’s preparation, which starts on the Tuesday prior to each race weekend with a conference call involving all of ESPN’s NASCAR announcers and analysts, producers, directors and others.
“There are a lot of meetings and there’s a lot of conversation behind the scenes,” said Briscoe, who joined ESPN in 2008 and was named to the NASCAR Countdown host position last July.
Unlike the telecast of a race, which is unscripted and documents the action as it happens, NASCAR Countdown is a studio show that has a specific format and timing in order to fit into its allotted time slot, which is usually one hour but can sometimes be less.
After the Tuesday conference call, which involves every aspect of the NASCAR weekend for ESPN and not just the pre-race show, Briscoe and Jeff Ingalls, the show’s producer, talk further about the format and feel of the upcoming Countdown.
“Generally speaking, I usually have at least an idea, a flowchart, of where he thinks we can end up going with the show before I get on a plane to come to the racetrack,” she said.
On Friday mornings at the racetrack, Briscoe and the analysts meet in the TV compound with Ingalls and the show’s director to discuss content.
“Rusty, Brad and Ray all come at the sport from different views,” she said. “And they all have their own opinions and their own perspectives and they all have very unique ideas of how we can talk about a race and why we should talk about a race a certain way. So we talk about how to best present those ideas so the fans feel like they’re there, they feel like they’re in the garage and they’re getting the perspective that we’re getting even though they’re at home and not with us.”
Follow ESPN’s NASCAR coverage on Twitter @NASCARESPN
Follow Nicole Briscoe on Twitter @RB_Mrs