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NASCAR TV talkers: Words of speed, Part 2

It’s no surprise that TV organizations choose drivers and crew chiefs as commentators. Football players and coaches are selected for their experience with four quarters of battle on a tight 100 yards. One common trait is the ability to communicate. Some are naturally better at presentation than others and some pick it up along life’s way.

Kenny Wallace is presently a driver for the U.S., Border Patrol in NASCAR Nationwide Series and for JEGS.com in Late Model Stock Cars, but he squeezes in time for the SpeedTV booth. Wallace sums it up well, “What I like best is broadcasting is that somehow they have allowed me to be myself.”

Reporter Dwight Drum takes media questions to the media. The focus is about adaptation, delivery and bringing the best to fans.

Eddie Cheever [ABC TV commentator] [Retired IndyCar driver]

About the transition from driver/owner to the broadcast booth:
“I’m lucky because I was doing the color with Scott Goodyear,” Cheever said. “It was great doing the ABC stuff with him because he had a different view than I did. In TV you have to be very specific and get to the point very quickly, because things change before your eyes.

“Your job isn’t to add something that isn’t on the screen, your job is to enhance what somebody is looking at and give depth to it.”

Adapting to the TV world from the racing world:
“I definitely enjoyed the TV stuff. It’s a different environment. You’re sitting in front of a bunch of screens. You have two friends with you. Your job is to add to what’s coming up on the screen. It sounds like we’re all sitting at home having a beer and eating peanuts, but it’s very intense. There is somebody yelling at you in your ear.. You’ve got to move from one subject to another. It’s definitely a lot of teamwork that goes into TV production. I never realized it. I was exhausted. After the first race I was as tired as I was when I was driving”.

Dale Jarrett: [ESPN TV commentator] [Retired NASCAR driver]

About speaking succinctly in the broadcast booth:
“It is difficult,” Jarrett said. “You get something and have a thought. Things are happening so quickly in this that you need to make the point.

“One thing I had to really learn, obviously I answered the last question that could have been answered in 45 seconds, I took two and a half minutes to answer that. Kind of my nature. That is something that I've worked extremely hard on. But I have two good people here that when I do get a little long-winded, they don't mind telling me. They're really great to work with. I've worked extremely hard on that. It is something, along with other things, I'm having to learn. It's totally new to me but I love doing it.”

Rusty Wallace [ESPN TV commentator] [Retired NASCAR driver]

About conveying the feel of driving a race to fans:
“With the fans on TV, the best way to convey that?” Wallace said. “When those situations happen and it's time for a driver as a past driver to convey something to the fan as a driver or a crew chief to convey something to the fans as a crew chief, we'll figure out how to do it. I'm not going to tell you there's a best way to do it, it's just got to happen and it's got to come off the cuff and it's got to happen naturally.

“The question will be, I wonder why that guy is doing that. I might say, as a driver, when I drove the car, the reason I did it was because of this, because of that. Then there might be a question, why is the guy getting so mad. Ray might jump in and say when I had my driver doing that, I would tell him something different.

Ray Evernham [ESPN TV commentator] [Retired NASCAR crew chief and owner]

About conveying the feel of driving a race to fans:
“When I made him mad he went faster, so I'd try to make him mad,” Evernham said.

“Emotionally you try to describe. I think the key for us is just going to be to describe what we actually felt in our experiences, because until you're in that battle or until you're going around Michigan at 200 miles an hour or you have to make a split second pit decision when the caution comes out, you really don't know what that's like, and I think the best thing we can do is just tell people how we felt and how we made the decisions we made.”

Kenny Wallace [Speed TV Commentator] [Driver, JEGS.com & No 28 U. S. Border Patrol Chevrolet]

About work in the broadcast booth:
“The most important thing first of all, you need to know you’re role as a TV commentator. Are you an analyst? Are you an entertainer? My role – I’m an entertainer. Then you need to take it very serious. Production meetings are very important. You need to be a team player. Know your role. Be a team player. Realize that everything you do on TV is a very serious situation. You have millions of people watching.”

When asked about what he likes best about broadcasting:
“I can name that real easy. What I like best is broadcasting is that somehow they have allowed me to be myself. I am fortunate and I know I’m lucky and thankful. What you see is what you get. That’s me.”

Dr. Jerry Punch [ESPN TV commentator]

About the changing environment for the commentators:
“Where Dale, Andy and I go every week, the track changes size,” Punch said. “There's a big difference in how much time you have to talk as an analyst. They have adapted well.

Question from fan Tommy Burton for Kurt Busch [No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge]:

You seem like a natural the few times you're in the broadcast booth. You've got a lot of great racing for the next several years, but have you thought about a future in the booth? Follow in Rusty's footsteps and stay in the fan's eyes! "Man, it's a little too early for me to be looking that far down the road,” Busch said. “I figure I have another 10 years of driving these things left in me. I've had a regular gig once a month on the Monday night PRN radio show and really have enjoyed doing that. I really haven't done all that much TV, to tell you the truth. I've been a guest in the booth for several truck race broadcasts and did a few of the old Busch Series races. When I feel like my career as a driver is beginning to wind down, who knows...you might see me doing a lot more of those broadcasts. Like I said, I feel those days are pretty far on down the road for me..."
Words of Speed, Part 1 link: Words of Speed, part 3 coming next.
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