CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ten ESPN anchors and producers spent three days here last week for the fourth annual “ESPN NASCAR Immersion” at – and around – Charlotte Motor Speedway in what is generally regarded as the “home” of NASCAR. The immersion, a cooperative effort between NASCAR and ESPN, is designed to help the on-air personalities and behind-the-scenes producers learn more about the intricacies of the sport through a hands-on experience.
Participating in the immersion were SportsCenter anchors Linda Cohn, Jade McCarthy, Kevin Negandhi and Bram Weinstein and First Take host Cari Champion. Joining them were SportsCenter senior coordinating producer Mark Summer, highlights producer Jeff McGuire, news editor Ken Fratus, ESPN International producer Ivania Lorenzo and Tim Scanlon, vice president, Talent.
The group started the immersion at a dinner Thursday night with ESPN NASCAR analysts Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham and pit reporters Jamie Little and Dr. Jerry Punch, who shared NASCAR knowledge along with some officials from NASCAR. Part of the evening included the 10 participants opening gift-wrapped NASCAR cars to learn which race teams they would be embedded with on race day.
Cohn has reported on NASCAR for years on SportsCenter but had previously only attended one race in person. She got to celebrate in victory lane with race winner Brad Keselowski after spending the day as part of his team.
“Being here, learning all about NASCAR, being behind the scenes, being in the pits, talking to these drivers, there’s nothing like it,” she said. “When I’m doing a NASCAR highlight, I’m already into it because I’m already a fan, but now that I’ve seen what happens behind the scenes, I will somehow get that across in the highlight, because I think people need to be informed, even the diehard NASCAR fans don’t know everything that goes on.”
On Friday, the 10 ESPN visitors got to drive real NASCAR stock cars from the Richard Petty Driving Experience around the 1.5-mile Charlotte track, reaching speeds of 150 mph. Then they toured nearby Hendrick Motorsports and went through the NASCAR team’s pit crew training. During Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, they visited the ESPN TV compound to observe the telecast crew in action and watched NASCAR officials in race control.
On Saturday, the day of the Bank of America 500, each participant spent the entire day with a race team and performed tasks such as marking tires and setting up pits prior to the race, then watched the race from the team’s pits.
Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, who oversees ESPN’s NASCAR coverage, hosted the event along with NASCAR.
Video produced by Andy Hall and David Scott