June 17, 2013



'NASCAR Now' takes team effort to produce


By Brian Danko, Staff Writer
The New Britain Herald & Bristol Press


Jim Bowdon’s office at ESPN is filled with NASCAR race gear and photos. It would be the envy of any race fan. But Bowdon isn’t just any race fan; he is the coordinating producer of NASCAR Now.

Nascar Now is one of the staples of ESPN’s motorsports division and Bowdon oversees every aspect of the show.

When I was there, ESPN was waiting on a major story as to the penalties being handed down to Penske Racing thus delaying the usual time that NASCAR Now is taped every day.

I asked Bowdon how they decide what is shown on each show throughout the week.

“A lot of it is driven by news. Monday, if it’s a Sunday race or even a Saturday we try and have the winner of the race on. What we’re doing then is reliving or retelling the story of the Sunday race. Sometimes we have an analyst here or even by satellite.”

“With all the news that we have gathered over the weekend, Monday is one of the easiest shows to put together.” Bowdon said.

“Tuesday we might do a secondary story. If we didn’t get the Sprint Cup winner on Monday, we’ll try and get him for Tuesday. We will also look for a secondary story for let’s say for a driver who hasn’t won in a while or who had a good day, we try and get them on.”

Also on Tuesday, ESPN will also try and get the Nationwide Series race winner on but make no bones about it; everyday is new, fresh and exciting for the people behind the scenes of NASCAR Now.

Bowden explained that Wednesday is kind of a ‘hump day’ and it’s tough to look back on the previous race but now they are focusing their attention to the next race the upcoming weekend.

“A lot of the news that we get is as it comes. We will run other stories such as we did yesterday when we had video of a tire test in Indianapolis. From that, we’ll get sound bites from various drivers. We sent over one of our reporters, Vince Welch, who lives in Indianapolis over to the track to get their views on the test and on the tires that will be used for the July race.”

“As we get into Thursday, we are just looking ahead to the next race on the schedule.” Bowdon, who came to ESPN from Indianapolis where he was an executive news producer. Bowdon also was coordinating producer of the racing magazine show, RPM2Night and on the overnight and 6 p.m. editions of ‘SportsCenter”.

Deciding who host the popular NASCAR Now is determined as too when and where the talent is. “It’s one big crew that we use. Having to cover the event side, the studio side and also taking into account the Indy car side. We have Marty Reid, Mike Massaro, Shannon Spake and Nicole Briscoe. Sometimes they are at the track reporting for NASCAR Now and SportsCenter.”

Bowdon said that it can get complicated figuring out who is at the track, who is scheduled for time off and who can fill in to do the show but the schedule for the entire year is planned before the start of the racing season so that everyone knows where and what they will be doing.

Putting the show on takes anywhere from 13 to 16 people and that includes the on air talent, camera persons, as well as other studio personnel. “Usually we have three associate producers and three content associates, at least, to cut all of the video and then we have a producer, a coordinating producer, we have a director and we also have an associate director.” Jim said looking at the list of people working on that day’s taping.

When asked the difference between the producer and the coordinating producer, Bowden said the coordinating producer is in charge of putting the whole show together and along with the producer, decide what content gets put on the air and what new ideas they can bring to the show.

“We have this sheet for everyday of the week. Once we know what we are going to run, then the producer will go in and say okay this will run in the first segment of the show and then we work together to decide what video clips to run and then we have a staff that goes in and cuts the video.”

But it is Bowdon who decides what runs and what doesn’t run but added “I don’t really like to do that because it is their show but it is still is a collaboration. The anchors (or host) also write the show in coordination with the producers and I go through all the stuff to make sure all the questions are written properly and everything is the way it should be.”

Bowdon also said that when they are at the track and do the weekend edition of NASCAR Now, they always have two reporters, two producers and two photographers and they travel to every race so they service the NASCAR Now show and SportsCenter.

When Bowdon was asked about showing highlights involving the NASCAR touring series, such as the Whelen modified tour and the K and N East and West series, he said, “We try and show as much as we can but it gets down to national interest. I know that is the grass roots of NASCAR and we do do it sporadically, we don’t do it on a permanent basis but obviously there are some good stories out there.”

Bowdon did say that they are doing nine pieces this year on what they call, NASCAR’s next. They are taking a driver from a lower NASCAR series and highlighting them.

It can be a lot of fun for the crew when a driver or drivers will come to Bristol to be a part of the taping of the show. In fact, one year, Indy Car racing had the entire starting field for the Indy 500 brought to Bristol to be on the show and to see what goes into putting on a show.

It’s a lot of work but Bowdon looks forward to each and every day waiting to see what can be done to enhance the viewer’s enjoyment and maybe bring something to the viewer that they didn’t know beforehand.

It may be just a 30 minute show but it takes a day to put it together.


Brian Danko has been covering Auto Racing for over 30 years for various magazines & and racing papers including Area Auto Racing News. His weekly column can be seen "In The Print Editions" of  The New Britain Herald & The Bristol Press.


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