DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For most of its 40-week season, ESPN2’s daily NASCAR news and information program NASCAR Now originates from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Conn.
But a few times a year, for some of the bigger events on the NASCAR schedule, the show goes on the road.
This week, NASCAR Now is originating three shows from Daytona International Speedway, where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season will begin on Sunday with the Daytona 500.
For coordinating producer Jim Bowdon, doing NASCAR Now from a racetrack where all of the top stars of NASCAR are gathered in one place is a definite advantage.
“We’re able to have a lot of the drivers come to the studio and talk to our analysts and talent who are right here at the track,” said Bowdon.
“And just being at the racetracks versus being in the studio brings you closer to the feel of a race weekend. The show definitely has a different feel.”
When doing NASCAR Now from a racetrack, the crew makes use of the ESPN Pit Studio, one of the most sophisticated mobile studios ever built for sports television and an intricate part of ESPN’s NASCAR race telecasts every week. The studio, which ABC News borrowed from ESPN to cover the 2008 New Hampshire primary, is the home for the pre-race NASCAR Countdown show.
Bowdon has a crew of about 20 people at the speedway to produce the shows, working closely with others back at ESPN.
Some new procedures have reduced the amount of people needed to do the job at the track.
“Last year, everything came from Daytona,” he said.
“We would still cut all of our video in Bristol and feed it to Daytona and roll it from our production truck. We would have graphics, video everything on site.
“This year however, we have a different approach,” he said.
“We are using a smaller truck in Daytona and just cutting cameras on site. We have an integration control room in Bristol where all video and graphics are inserted. It has cut our costs down considerably as the number of people who must travel is much smaller. At the same time, our quality will not suffer.”
One of the main challenges the NASCAR Now crew faces is the sheer size of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. Getting from place to place can be difficult.
“We’re writing the show with one of our anchors working with us in our office outside the track in the TV compound,” he said.
“But when it’s time to go inside the track to do the show or do SportsCenter, you’ve got to manage your time because sometimes you’re in the middle of a giant crowd, and you have to take them inside in a car or on a golf cart, and driving through thousands of people just to get them there on time.”
NASCAR Now also uses some of the same announcers as ESPN’s race coverage team, so schedules have to be coordinated.
“At this point we can have Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham and Nicole Briscoe, but here they have to be in a meeting for event production so they can’t do this live shot,” said Bowdon.
“We make our schedules, compare notes and work out the differences, and hopefully everybody knows exactly where to be at the appointed time.”
NASCAR Now’s one-hour Daytona 500 preview program airs Sunday, Feb. 26, at 9 a.m. ET.