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ESPN announces '08 NASCAR lineup
Dale Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and one of the founding drivers of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, will expand his role with ESPN and join high school friends Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree in the booth for ESPN’s full season of NASCAR coverage in 2008.  

Rusty Wallace, NASCAR Cup champion in 1989, will become lead analyst for ESPN studio programs in 2008, highlighted by serving as analyst for an enhanced NASCAR Countdown, the program that precedes all NASCAR telecasts. Wallace also will appear across multiple ESPN platforms, including regularly on NASCAR Now, ESPN’s daily NASCAR news and information show, and will call several race telecasts in place of Jarrett.  

Allen Bestwick moves into the fulltime role of host of ESPN’s race telecasts and host of NASCAR Countdown. Wallace and Bestwick will appear with analyst Brad Daugherty on the pre-race program, and the three will be integrated with the booth team during race telecasts.  

ESPN also has named motorsports television veteran Nicole Manske as host of NASCAR Now, which returns to the air for its second season Feb. 4 on ESPN2. Manske, who joins ESPN after two years as co-host of a weekly motorsports news program on the SPEED Channel, will share the NASCAR Now host role with Bestwick and ESPNEWS anchor Ryan Burr.  

On ESPN’s event coverage, Shannon Spake, a reporter for ESPN’s studio programs and fill-in pit reporter last year, will take Bestwick’s position as a fulltime pit reporter, joined by returnees Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Mike Massaro. Two-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Tim Brewer returns to report from the ESPN DISH Tech Center.  

“We now have the opportunity to provide our viewers with analysis from a pair of former NASCAR Cup champions with Dale Jarrett in the booth and Rusty Wallace on the NASCAR Countdown set as well as on other platforms,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, studio and event production.  

“We were pleased to have Dale with us in a limited role last year and look forward to his participation on a regular basis,” Williamson said. “Rusty’s enthusiasm, team spirit and knowledge make him an invaluable contributor to our coverage. These champion drivers in their new roles add tremendously to ESPN’s championship team for our second year back in NASCAR.”  

ESPN’s 2008 NASCAR season begins with live, flag-to-flag coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series opener at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 16, at noon ET on ESPN2. In addition to coverage of all 35 races in the Nationwide Series, ESPN also will have telecasts of the final 17 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  

Jarrett, who is retiring from driving after the first five races of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, was booth analyst for 10 NASCAR Nationwide Series ESPN race telecasts last year and worked several NASCAR Sprint Cup races as a guest analyst on NASCAR Countdown.  

Punch, ESPN’s lead announcer, Petree, booth analyst and a two-time NASCAR Cup champion crew chief, and Jarrett are all natives of Newton, N.C., and attended Newton-Conover High School within a few years of each other in the early 1970s. The three were partners in one of Jarrett’s first race cars in 1979.  

“It was exciting to see ESPN return to NASCAR last year and be a part of it when my racing schedule allowed,” said Jarrett, winner of 32 NASCAR Cup Series races and 11 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. “To have this opportunity to shift from fulltime driver to fulltime analyst for ESPN’s second year back is a great privilege and I can’t wait to get started.”  

Jarrett followed the footsteps of his father, Ned, a two-time NASCAR champion, into driving and television. Ned Jarrett was a popular analyst on ESPN’s coverage of NASCAR from 1988-2000 and returned to the booth as a guest analyst for one race last year to work alongside his son for the first time.  

Wallace joined ESPN after retiring from driving following the 2005 season and spent 2006 as analyst for ESPN’s coverage of the IndyCar Series in preparation for ESPN’s return to NASCAR in 2007. Bestwick served multiple roles for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage last year, including pit reporter, host of NASCAR Countdown for NASCAR Nationwide Series races and play-by-play announcer for several events.  

Along with returning NASCAR Insiders Angelique Chengelis and Marty Smith, ESPN.com reporters Terry Blount and David Newton and analysts Boris Said, Tim Cowlishaw and D.J. Copp, many members of ESPN’s event coverage team also will contribute to NASCAR Now in 2008.
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