Behind The Scenes

How ESPN’s production crews negotiated Daytona’s twists and turns

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The first rainout in the history of the Daytona 500 created hardships for thousands of race fans, as well as the 43 race teams competing in the event and many more here for NASCAR’s biggest race.

ESPN’s crew that had been at the speedway all week for SportsCenter and NASCAR Now also had to scramble when the race was postponed, as did ESPN’s programming and travel groups.

After doing a one-hour NASCAR Now program on Sunday morning, the crew was poised to do a SportsCenter special after the race, but the rainout changed that.

Instead, when NASCAR announced that the race was rescheduled for Monday, travel plans had to be changed, hotel rooms found and an air of uncertainty of what the next day would bring was prevalent.

“Our production coordinators did a great job working with our travel department,” said Jim Bowdon, coordinating producer. “Everybody had to be re-booked, and rooms extended.

“We went to bed Sunday night thinking we had a noon race Monday,” he said.

The team had planned live SportsCenter hits every hour starting at 9 a.m., but that changed when NASCAR announced shortly after 10 a.m. that the race would be run Monday night.

Then, it was determined that the already-scheduled 3 p.m. NASCAR Now show, which wouldn’t have aired had the race been run at noon, would instead become a SportsCenter special.

Bowdon, producer Patrick Sloan and the rest of the team began preparing content for the 30-minute show, including trying to line up some NASCAR drivers to appear live.

“Literally the show kept evolving as guests confirmed or canceled,” said Sloan.

“With the NASCAR Now team back in Bristol coordinating with us on the telephone, we basically pieced together the rundown. We had like two hours to put it together, but we had three guests and some good content.”

Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 Monday night.

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