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ESPN’s Champions Take Over Booth at Michigan Nationwide Series Race

ESPN2’s live coverage of the Aug. 15 Carfax 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway will have a new and different approach as the telecast will prominently feature five former NASCAR champions and will be done without a traditional “play by play” announcer.

ESPN’s “Backseat Drivers” telecast will engage NASCAR fans with the authenticity and experience of analysts Tim Brewer, Ray Evernham, Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree and Rusty Wallace. With Brewer contributing reports and analysis from the ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage, Evernham, Jarrett, Petree and Wallace will call the race from the booth.

“Our goal is to give viewers a different presentation, one filled with discussion, observations, and stories from some of the most respected champions NASCAR has crowned, and their unique unfiltered perspective on an event,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports.

“This is an opportunity for our viewers to have the experience of sitting around watching a race with these champions from their couch at home, and without the traditional approach to sportscasting.“

In addition to the five champions, the telecast will include pit reporters Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Shannon Spake and Vince Welch, while Allen Bestwick will host. The race airs Saturday, Aug. 15, at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Live from Michigan on ESPN

ESPN will have live, flag-to-flag coverage in high definition as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes in the Carfax 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Aug. 16. The telecast begins with NASCAR Countdown presented by Degree V12 at 1:00 p.m. ET and the race’s green flag is at 2:16 p.m.

The final 17 races of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will air on the ESPN Networks, with the first six on ESPN and the final 11 on ABC, including all 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Dr. Jerry Punch will be lap-by-lap announcer for ESPN’s coverage, with analysis by 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Dale Jarrett and two-time NASCAR champion crew chief Andy Petree. Reporting from the pits will be Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Shannon Spake and Vince Welch, with two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief Tim Brewer in the ESPN Craftsman Tech Garage.

Allen Bestwick will host the pre-race NASCAR Countdown program with analysis by 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty, owner of a winning team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, in the ESPN pit studio.

Also this week, ESPN Classic will air highlights of the 1991 Champion Spark Plug 500 from Pocono (PA) Raceway on Monday, Aug. 17, at 6 p.m. The race was won by Darrell Waltrip, with Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Harry Gant and Geoff Bodine completing the top five.

Craven, Said, Chengelis on NASCAR Now Roundtable

NASCAR on ESPN analysts Ricky Craven and Boris Said will join ESPN NASCAR reporter Angelique Chengelis as panelists on NASCAR Now’s weekly roundtable discussion program on Monday, Aug. 17, at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Allen Bestwick will host the edition of ESPN2’s daily NASCAR news and information program.

Mike Massaro hosts half-hour episodes of NASCAR Now airing Tuesday through Thursday of this week at 5 p.m., and Friday at 9 p.m. following ESPN2’s live coverage of U.S. Open Series tennis.

Massaro also hosts the one-hour weekend edition that airs Sunday, Aug. 16, at 10 a.m. with a preview of that day’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. The weekend wrap-up edition airs at 1 a.m. Monday, Aug. 17 (late Sunday night). Nicole Manske and Chengelis will report from Michigan for both programs, while Said will join Massaro in the studio. 

NASCAR Now is hosted by Massaro, Bestwick and Manske and originates from ESPN’s high definition studios in Bristol, Conn. Contributors include NASCAR Insiders Marty Smith and Angelique Chengelis, analysts Ray Evernham, Tim Brewer, Brad Daugherty, Boris Said, Ricky Craven and Randy LaJoie, and ESPN.com reporters Ed Hinton, Terry Blount and David Newton. The NASCAR on ESPN team event coverage team of Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Dr. Jerry Punch, Andy Petree, Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Spake and Vince Welch also make frequent contributions to NASCAR Now.

NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing from Minnesota on ESPN2

The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series returns from a two-week break with action at Brainerd (MN) International Raceway this weekend, and ESPN2 will air qualifying and eliminations action on a same-day basis. Qualifying from the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals airs Saturday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m. ET, and again at 11 p.m., with eliminations airing Sunday at 10 p.m. Finals coverage re-airs Monday, Aug. 17, at 11 a.m. on ESPN Classic.

NHRA’s version of a weeklong campout, this event is a popular stop due to the area’s recreational opportunities. Avid fishers often spend the days before the event trolling the area’s many lakes for walleye, bass, and northern pike, and a huge on-site campground provides nightly camaraderie for racegoers who sit around fires discussing the day’s action. A 700-foot concrete launchpad, one of the longest on the tour, helps boost performances as competition heightens for positions in the Countdown to 1.

Paul Page anchors ESPN2’s coverage with analysis by 22-time NHRA winner Mike Dunn. Gary Gerould and Dave Rieff report from the pits. Rieff and Dunn host NHRA RaceDay on Sunday at 11 a.m. to set the stage for that day’s eliminations action.

Other NHRA programming airing on ESPN Networks this week includes highlights from the 2003 Checkers Schucks Kragen NHRA Nationals in Phoenix airing Monday, Aug. 17, at 10 a.m. on ESPN Classic.

Traxxas TORC Series Action on ESPN2 Sunday

Action from the Traxxas TORC Series presented by AMSOIL returns to ESPN2 on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 11:30 a.m. ET with highlights from the series event held in Bark River, Mich. The premier short-course racing series with the top stars in off-road racing, this exciting form of door-to-door action will appear on both ESPN2 and ABC this season.   

The 2009 season features eight total rounds of racing. ESPN2 will air five rounds with three to appear on ABC, including a live telecast on ABC of the Crandon 40th Anniversary of Off-Road Racing. Marty Reid, lap-by-lap announcer for ESPN on ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 and selected NASCAR races, will call all of the Traxxas TORC Truck Series events on ESPN2 and ABC. Joining Reid will be long-time extreme sports announcer Tes Sewell and former Miss USA Kimberly Pressler as pit reporter.

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