ESPN NASCAR coverage to be most technologically advanced in history

NASCAR fans are welcoming back an old friend this year with ESPN’s return to coverage of the sport, but the old friend is going to have a sophisticated new look when live NASCAR coverage resumes next month.

ESPN and ESPN on ABC’s coverage of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series will be the most technologically advanced programming in the history of televised motorsports, according to Jed Drake, senior vice president and executive producer for ESPN.

"ESPN's presentation of NASCAR will be state of the art at every level of production," said Drake. "We have built a production plan that will provide a truly exceptional presentation to our viewers."

All NASCAR on ESPN races and associated programming will be totally produced in High Definition, a first for televised motorsports. Of the approximately 60 to 75 cameras that will be used by ESPN in televising races, more than used in any other sport, all will be HD.

ESPN, a pioneer in the development of in-car cameras during its 20 seasons of NASCAR coverage from 1981-2000, has been preparing for use of HD in-car cameras in advance of the NASCAR Busch Series season-opening Orbitz 300 from Daytona on ESPN2 February 17.

“In-car cameras are probably the most dynamic facet of motorsports coverage and taking that into the high-def world is huge," said Rich Feinberg, senior coordinating producer for NASCAR on ESPN. The camera systems had to be re-engineered for HD, as did the camera power and transmission systems within the race cars, all while maintaining a delicate balance to not add weight to the cars and possibly affect their performance.

ESPN’s NASCAR coverage will also include HD cameras providing other interesting points of view, including grass cam, wall cam, crew cams, pit overhead cams, blimps and multiple robotic cameras at various points around the tracks.

ESPN2 will be the home of the NASCAR Busch Series all season, with six selected events to be televised by ESPN on ABC. As part of ESPN’s commitment to the series, the network will utilize the same standards of production for the NASCAR Busch Series as it will for telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races of 2007.

In addition to 100 percent use of HD cameras, ESPN will also produce NASCAR’s top two series with Sportvision technology, which Feinberg said no TV network has ever used in NASCAR Busch Series coverage.

Sportvision utilizes satellite technology to create on-screen “pointers" to designate specific cars within a pack, helping viewers distinguish their favorite driver’s car, lead-lap cars and produces telemetry from the race cars to show speeds, braking and other compelling information to viewers. All cars in the races will carry Sportvision transmitters.

6 – Tractor-trailer rigs used each event (including pit studio, in-car camera trailer, custom office trailer)
10 – Number of months ESPN’s NASCAR fleet will be on the road (February-November)
26 – Tracks ESPN’s mobile fleet will visit in 2007
38 – NASCAR events ESPN’s mobile fleet will attend in 2007
52 – NASCAR races to be televised live by ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN on ABC in 2007 (full 35-race NASCAR Busch Series season, final 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events)
60-75 – HD Cameras used by ESPN to televise a NASCAR race (including in-car cameras)
200 – Credentialed ESPN personnel working on NASCAR each week
78,000 – Weight in pounds of ESPN traveling studio for NASCAR Countdown shows

ESPN commissioned the creation of four of what Feinberg said are “the most sophisticated mobile production units ever built in the history of TV motorsports, designed just for our NASCAR coverage." Among the innovations within the ESPN-branded units is a radio room in which radio transmissions of all 43 teams in NASCAR races will be recorded during races, allowing producers to be able to lift specific transmissions of any driver or team at any time. “I call it the ultimate TiVo," said Feinberg.

For its NASCAR Countdown studio shows that will precede all NASCAR race telecasts, ESPN will originate from the most technologically-advanced traveling studio ever used in sports television. The studio, which weighs nearly 78,000 pounds and will travel to 26 NASCAR tracks this season, will allow ESPN to bring the look and feel of its Bristol, Conn.,-based studio shows such as SportsCenter and Sunday NFL Countdown to the tracks.

The mobile pit studio will be outfitted with state-of-the-art LED lighting, three robotic HD cameras and a dramatic, contoured, video display fronting the anchor desk. Situated near the pits at every track, the studio will be elevated 14 feet while in use and 30 foot glass windows will give viewers a look at the cars, grandstands and pageantry prior to the race start. “We want to show the scope and size of the sport," Feinberg said.

Feinberg also said ESPN will have an exciting new animation, graphic and musical package featuring Aerosmith.

“We’re not here to reinvent the way NASCAR is covered because we have tremendous respect for what has been accomplished," said Feinberg. “We’re proud of our history, but are not resting on it. We’re pushing the limit up and upgrading the experience. We can’t wait to get started at Daytona."

ESPN and ESPN on ABC will have comprehensive, multi-platform coverage featuring telecasts of the final 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races including the 10-race “Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" championship on ESPN on ABC. Additionally, ESPN2 will be the home of the NASCAR Busch Series all season. For the first time in the history of televised motorsports, all programming will be produced totally in High Definition. ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup Races over a 20-year period starting in 1981. The network's award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage on ESPN was honored with 17 Sports Emmy Awards, as well as many industry honors. It is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide. NASCAR races have appeared on ABC for decades, beginning with broadcasts on the award-winning Wide World of Sports program in the 1960s.

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