Jerry Punch Out, Marty Reid in ESPN NASCAR Booth for 2010
ESPN announced Wednesday that Jerry Punch will move out of the broadcast booth and back to reporting from pit road while Marty Reid will take over lap-by-lap duties for the network's coverage of the Sprint Cup Series. Reid will join returning analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree.
Punch, who served as ESPN's lap-by-lap guy for all Sprint Cup action and most Nationwide Series coverage for the past three seasons, has 20 years of previous experience on pit road and seems to be moving back into his element.
Such a change might be related to a survey sent out by NASCAR after the end of the 2009 season to its 'fan council' -- a group of over 12,000 fans who answer multiple surveys each season about several parts of the NASCAR experience. The Daly Planet, a blog that critiques NASCAR television coverage, reported in a Dec. 3 post that several of the questions were directly aimed at judging ESPN's coverage.
Reid isn't new to NASCAR or calling big events. Last season, Reid worked for ESPN as the lead announcer for the network's coverage of IndyCar races -- including calling the Indianapolis 500 -- in addition to filling in for Punch on a number of Nationwide Series races. Reid will continue the IndyCar duty in 2010 as ESPN has just five of the series' races.
NASCAR's ratings have taken a slide over the past season, giving ESPN more incentive to find a better combination in the booth. According to Jayski, ESPN's coverage of the Chase for the Sprint Cup on ABC dropped from an average 3.8 Nielson rating in 2008 to a 3.5 in 2009.
Punch, while effective and knowledgeable in the ESPN booth, never seemed to get in a groove or style that added the extra ingredient to the network's coverage. Easily, I'd argue that such a jolt is something that Mike Joy offers to the FOX Sports broadcast during the first part of the NASCAR season.
That being said, Reid is as good of a candidate to head up the Sprint Cup coverage as anyone. He's got a style that seems to easily incorporate the rest of the talent in the broadcast booth in a natural way, while knowing when to take over and call the action with the right amount of intensity.
As for Punch, a return to pit road couldn't be a better fit. Punch cut his teeth in the NASCAR broadcast world with insightful information and smooth calls during his original tenure for ESPN as a pit reporter. The move does create somewhat of a logjam for ESPN at the pit road position as Punch joins a group that already includes Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Mike Massaro, Shannon Spake and Vince Welch.
Spake is reportedly due to have twins in January, meaning she may not be on ESPN's coverage of the Nationwide Series at the start of 2010.