ESPN producer Gaiero not fazed by NASCAR's switch to NBC in 2015

Posted: August 06, 2013

JIM GAIERO must have been carrying a lucky coin yesterday at Pocono Raceway.

Producing his first NASCAR Sprint Cup telecast at Pocono for ESPN yesterday, Gaiero and viewers were treated to a finish as riveting as it gets. Kasey Kahne surged passed Jeff Gordon on the final restart with two laps remaining to win the 400.

"It was one of the more exciting Pocono races in a long time," Gaiero said. "The restarts were fun to watch. Our director, Richie Basile, and I talked about how important restarts would be."

One highlight of the telecast was the high camera showing how the race cars fan out four- and sometimes five-wide prior to funneling side-by-side into Turn 1, the highest banked curve on the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

During the week before the July 28 Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, when ESPN begins its coverage of NASCAR races for the year, NASCAR announced that starting in 2015 NBC and NBC Sports will replace ESPN and TNT carrying the second half of the Cup and Nationwide series races.

Prior to yesterday's race, Gaiero said the timing of the NASCAR/NBC announcement won't affect ESPN's race telecasts through the end of next year.

"It will be business as usual for us," Gaiero, ESPN's lead motorsports producer, said. "I told our people last week that we're in this until the end of 2014. We're producing four more championships: two Cup and two Nationwide. We'll continue our best efforts."

Reports have indicated that neither ESPN nor TNT was interested in bidding on future NASCAR races.

One effect of the new TV coverage, starting in 2015, is how much exposure NASCAR receives on ESPN's "SportsCenter'' coverage. Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and college football and basketball are all on ESPN. Those sports generally are top priorities for the network, leaving only so much time for NASCAR.

By 2015, however, the new Fox Sports 1 network may be established enough that NASCAR fans will be happy with the coverage there and not care much about "SportsCenter.''

ESPN offered two excellent prerace features:

* The strong relationship between Brickyard 400 winner Ryan Newman and his father, Greg. They refer to each other as their "heroes."

* Several girls racing go-karts were interviewed at the Wisconsin track where Danica Patrick started racing. Danica noted she was the only girl when she raced go karts; now, 40 percent of the go-karters are girls.

"I tell them they shouldn't want to be me," Danica said. "I tell them they should want to be better than me."

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