ESPN’s NASCAR pit producer ‘orchestrates chaos’ of green flag racing

NASCAR pit producer Rene Hatlelid. (Andy Hall/ESPN)
NASCAR pit producer Rene Hatlelid. (Andy Hall/ESPN)

Some of the most exciting moments during a NASCAR race occur during green-flag pit stops and the same is true inside ESPN’s production trailer during a race telecast. When a race stretches on without a caution period, race teams are forced to make pit stops under racing conditions, and things get hectic as ESPN keeps viewers informed while 43 cars are coming and going from 13-second pit stops.

At her post inside the production trailer, pit producer Rene Hatlelid is in contact with ESPN’s four pit reporters (each are assigned 10 pit stalls) who describe the pit stops and relay information for viewers.

“Green flag pit stops are definitely orchestrated chaos,” Hatlelid said. “but it’s more orchestrated than people think. It depends on the track we’re at as to how crazy it is but it’s always a little crazy.”

When green flag pit stops occur, Hatlelid converses with lead producer Jim Gaiero as to which pit reporter is covering which car and who will be speaking. The reporters then “toss” to their colleague after they’ve delivered their reports.

“As cars come in, we try and capture all of the leaders as they pit,” she said. “We want to make sure we see if they get two tires or four tires, and we want to make sure we’re covering stories of the race.

“It’s difficult because there’s 43 cars, but we try and get at least 20 to 25 cars in a pit stop, hopefully, as they come in,” said Hatlelid, in her 10th year with ESPN and seventh on NASCAR. “Each reporter has the certain drivers that are coming, so they’ll give me a heads-up when a car’s coming in.”

Hatlelid also gets constant information from live content coordinator Patrick Perrin, who sits next to her and monitors team radios as well as a camera positioned at the entrance of the pits.

“Under caution it’s a lot easier to figure out because you have time and all the cars are coming in, but under green it’s a different system and the cars will come in on different laps,” she said. “So Patrick will also give me a little bit of a heads-up on what cars are coming in so that we can identify and make sure we don’t miss the leader.”

Editor’s Note: ABC will air the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.

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