With High-Speed Camera and Helicopter, ESPN Takes on NASCAR

This Sunday, as NASCAR speeds into one of the season’s pinnacle events and marks the unofficial midpoint of the Sprint Cup schedule, coverage shifts to ESPN, where it will remain for the final 17 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, including all 10 races of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

ESPN’s live, flag-to-flag coverage of NASCAR begins July 29 with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will travel to such storied tracks as Watkins Glen International in New York, Chicagoland Speedway, and Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama before the Sprint Cup Series Champion is crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18.

“On the production side, our entire team is excited now that we’re making the turn halfway through the season — or halfway through our season [as we are] continuing our Nationwide [Series] coverage, but adding to it the privilege of covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,” says Rich Feinberg, VP, motorsports, production, ESPN. “On behalf of our entire team, we’re really excited to get going this week at Indianapolis, which is a special place for our company.”

From High-Speed Cameras…
ESPN will introduce an ultra-slo-mo RF handheld camera to its Sprint Cup Series telecasts and plans to use the camera predominantly for analyzing pit stops. According to Feinberg, ESPN’s use of the camera marks the first time the network will place an ultra-slo-mo handheld in pit road for a NASCAR telecast. The camera will enable the production crew to capture pit road in nearly 1,000 frames per second.

“We’ve seen a lot of ultra-mos find their way into the sports-broadcasting landscape in many, many forms,” says Feinberg. “Our goal is to offer unique looks, whether it’s for our audience [or] for Andy [Petree] and D.J. [Dale Jarrett] to break down [the race]. So many times, we say [that] races are won and lost on pit road, and, if we can take certain moments in time of what happens on pit road and really break them down and analyze them, [we can] offer viewers a new look.”

…To Cameras Moving at High Speeds
In total, ESPN will deploy an additional 74 HD cameras to cover the Brickyard 400 this weekend. Bat Cam, a camera running on a cable over pit road and the front stretch that can move at more than 80 mph, also will be used again at IMS.

Last season, ESPN introduced dual-path transmission for on-board cameras, beginning with the Brickyard 400 telecast. Developed in conjunction with Broadcast Sports Inc., dual-path transmission enables ESPN to play two HD feeds simultaneously, using in-car transmitters that do not increase weight or require additional equipment. This season, ESPN plans to continue using the technology on Sprint Cup Series and expand its use of the technology to its Nationwide Series telecasts.

“We’re going to continue to feature [dual-path transmission] in every Sprint Cup race starting at the Brickyard and for all the Nationwide races that are at Sprint Cup weekends,” says Feinberg. “They [have] been a great tool, and, again, in analysis, they allow us the ability to not only see what the driver is seeing in certain circumstances on the racetrack but also give the fans a sense of what the driver himself is going through by offering those dual [perspectives].”

In addition, ESPN will bring back the helicopter camera, having unveiled the high-flying technology at last year’s Brickyard 400. The helicopter camera provides broadcasters and at-home viewers an unobstructed view of the entire racetrack (the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 2.5 miles) at once.

“One of the things we’ve done a lot this year is taking existing technology and trying to push its limits,” says Feinberg, “and we’ll continue to do so.”

Non-Stop NASCAR Action
For the final 10 races of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series — the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup — ESPN will again roll out NASCAR NonStop. Introduced last season for the Chicagoland Speedway race, NASCAR NonStop splits the screen between the advertisement on the left side and non-stop racing action on the right, taking effect at or near the halfway point of the race (the first half of the race is presented with traditional commercial breaks). ESPN’s scoring ticker continues to move across the top of the screen, ensuring that fans can always keep pace with the action.

In the Booth and on the Track
Of ESPN’s 17 races, 14 will air on ESPN and WatchESPN, and three Saturday-night races will air on ABC.

ESPN’s NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage team will once again be led by analyst Dale Jarrett, the 1999 driving champion, who will work with two-time champion crew chief Andy Petree and lap-by-lap announcer Allen Bestwick in the booth. Rusty Wallace, the 1989 driving champion, and three-time champion crew chief Ray Evernham will be analysts for the NASCAR Countdown prerace show with host Nicole Briscoe and analyst Brad Daugherty, a NASCAR team owner.

Pit reporting duties for ESPN’s 17-race NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage will be handled by Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Mike Massaro, Dr. Jerry Punch, Shannon Spake, and Vince Welch.