Dale Earnhardt Jr., the leader of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, will be ESPN In-Race Reporter during the telecast of Sunday’s 400-mile race at Pocono (PA) Raceway, continuing an element of ESPN’s NASCAR telecasts that has been in place since 2007.
Earnhardt will speak with ESPN analyst and 1999 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Dale Jarrett on the race’s pace laps and during caution periods, bringing viewers the unique perspective of a driver competing in the race. In addition, ESPN analyst Andy Petree, a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion crew chief, will speak with Earnhardt’s crew chief, Steve Letarte.
The In-Race Reporter in ESPN’s NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series telecasts has seen many different drivers in the role and last week’s debut of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing on ESPN for 2012 brought the role into conversations that continued long after the race had ended.
In the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart brought some spice to the In-Race Reporter position as he voiced some frustration with other drivers during a late-race conversation with Jarrett that was heard by the viewers of the telecast and replayed and discussed countless times by race fans around the country.
“The biggest problem we’re having is fighting guys that want to block and change lanes,” Stewart said over the two-way radio hookup with Jarrett. “I’ve had enough of that. We’re not road course racing so they change lanes and block me, they’re gonna get parked. I’ve had it.”
Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production, pointed to the exchange Stewart and Jarrett had as the kind of information the In-Race Reporter can bring to the telecasts.
“The In-Race Reporter continues to be an important element of our motorsports coverage and you’ll never have a better example of how interesting and compelling it can be than what we heard from Tony Stewart in the Brickyard 400,” Feinberg said.
“This kind of access is just another aspect of NASCAR that makes it such a wonderful sport to cover on television. A driver who’s in the heat of competition can share what’s happening on the track with viewers in a candid and informative way. It’s another way we can serve sports fans and add to the overall experience of watching a race.”
NASCAR Countdown from Pocono airs Sunday, Aug. 5, at noon ET with the race’s green flag at 1:18 p.m. Also from Pocono, ESPN2 will air NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 4, at 10:30 a.m. All NASCAR programming on ESPN and ESPN2 is also available on computers, smartphones and tablets with the WatchESPN app and WatchESPN.com.