Mark Ashenfelter is one of many behind-the-scenes people who helps make ESPN’s NASCAR coverage go. And like many, he doesn’t show up on camera.
But Ashenfelter is a direct link with viewers and race fans, even though most of those folks only know a Twitter handle.
Ashenfelter, who is an event news editor in ESPN’s Cross Platform Newsgathering Unit (CPNU), manages the @NASCARESPN Twitter feed, a social media outreach that ESPN’s motorsports production group started this season.
In May, Ashenfelter expanded the outreach with the addition of the hashtag #PITSTUDIO, designed to allow viewers the opportunity to ask questions of ESPN NASCAR analysts Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham inside the ESPN Pit Studio during races.
“During the races, I’m Tweeting running orders and observations of the races, and I’m in the pit studio and I’ll talk with Rusty, Brad and Ray and tweet out their observations to our viewers,” said Ashenfelter.
“There are times our pit studio isn’t on the air when our booth is calling all the action so I try and keep their perspective out there.
“And our Twitter followers can submit questions and then I’ll try to get replies from Rusty, Brad or Ray and answer the fan’s questions during the event to provide a secondary screen experience for those watching at home and also using their computers,” he said.
“It helps keep those who are out and not in front of a TV updated on the race and also gives them a little insight on what our folks think about the race as its happening.”
As news editor, Ashenfelter keeps up with NASCAR news throughout the week and during race weekend.
“I send out an email prior to our production meeting each week to the producers and try to lay out just what I think are some of the main storylines and topics of the week,” he said.
“And on our Tuesday conference call, the announcers provide additional storylines as we go around and talk to everyone.
“I monitor the news,” he said, “NASCAR could be issuing penalties, teams could be making sponsorship announcements, drivers or crew chiefs could be hired or fired for next year, and I just keep our crew up-to-date on everything.
“If there’s an issue, I try to make sure we have all sides of the story so we present everything fair and make sure everyone’s side is heard from.”
ESPN will televise the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m. ET.