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Can Dave Save NHRA ESPN’s Sky Waves?

Can Dave Save NHRA ESPN’s Sky Waves?

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Published by Phillip Gary Smith
Dave Rieff, as the new broadcaster on the pro NHRA ESPN telecasts, has larger shows to fill when Paul Page retired. Here's how he did on his first telecast of new Mello Yello sponsor (Coke) . . . .though he had plenty of experience on the active Lucas Sportsman Series.
Dave Rieff, as the new broadcaster on the pro NHRA ESPN telecasts, has larger shows to fill when Paul Page retired. Here's how he did on his first telecast of new Mello Yello sponsor (Coke) . . . .though he had plenty of experience on the active Lucas Sportsman Series.

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Published by: Phillip Gary Smith on May 02, 2013
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05/14/2014

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Media Matters 2.18Can Dave Save NHRA ESPN’s Sky Waves?Dave Rieff is driving the top chair in the broadcast booth for ESPN2 as positions change there just as they do with racing team; how will he do?With a long background in drag race broadcasting for the sportsmancategory, he has the experience and excitement necessary to convey theaction on the track. With Mike Dunn adding his expert commentary, adelivery that has gradually built over the years to now near perfection, theteam is set to win. They also have another advantage: they’re younger, whatappears to be a key for sports and motorsports broadcasting in general.Media Matters predicted Rieff’s possibility of winning the coveted spot in acolumn following Indy’s rainout, published 09/15/2012 with these words:“The quickly organized one-hour program updating the status of teams and publicizing the new dates and times was broadcast in lieu of the scheduledLabor Day finals. Interestingly, this update show featured Lucas OilSportsman broadcaster Rieff in a role that might be seen as a live auditionfor the post Page vacates at year-end.Teamed with Mike Dunn, his former partner on the now retired Sunday pre-race show, their chemistry was instantly back, upbeat and given the drabovercast and quick nature of the preparations, quite bright. Maybe Rieff'scomment to Hight: "Your best friend is Isaac" became a subconscious nod tohimself. Without the storm camping right on top of Indianapolis, he wouldnot have enjoyed this sterling opportunity to showcase his talent for fillingthe lead chair.”The teams first broadcast at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 53
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Winternationalswas seamless, best demonstrated with Top Fuel champion, Antron Brown,started the season with a frightening crash continuing from that last race herewhere he won while waiting all day for Brandon Bernstein to win it for him.Even Bernstein, standing next to his MAVTV dragster, concurred when heanswered a question on a new segment, the E3 Plug Hot Shot. “Coolestthing about 2012? I got Antron a championship, and he owes me!”
 
Covering the crash and Brown’s condition as they had done for other incidents over time became much like broadcasting a story that gets retoldover and over, but each time is exciting: a major crash. Would the LA Timeshave covered the race as fully if not this excitement?As senior reporter Gary Gerould noted for the king of dragsters class, “Onlycertainty, nothing is easy in Top Fuel.”Rieff opened with the major themes like “Never had a 15-time championand two daughters racing; it’s a highlight day.” That story grew and grewuntil Courtney Force won the Funny Car class and the first race of the year.On her unusual feat—qualifying No. 1 and winning the Winternationals— Force light-heartedly commented, “It was definitely pretty unbelievable!”The best prediction on the stories of the day came when reviewing 2012 ProStock champion Allen Johnson’s Mopar Avenger; major competition isgoing to come from his teammates . . . and it did; both met in the finals.Vincent Nobile’s Mountainview Tire Avenger defeated Jeg Coughlin’sJegs.com Avenger to take the first Pro Stock win of the year.The day’s Marquee Matchup—Ron Capps’ NAPA Charger vs. John Force’sCastrol Mustang—yielded “a stellar race . . . very nice” from FastNews Network, but the real Capps/Force pairing showed in the finals. The broadcast sought fan’s prediction on the outcome; not surprising, they chosethe champion. Not surprising, they chose wrong. Almost as a contrarian, onewould have to choose against popularity and the popular view.The most interesting story off the track resulted from the re-hiring of Spencer Massey by Don Shumacher after firing him post-season. Thereason? Bringing beer to a black-tie event. Whether a juvenile act deservedcapital punishment—Shumacher, “I was afraid it would be a death-sentenceto his NHRA career—the decision reversed and Massey resides back in their camp. Such an initial reaction, though, relates to the change in the broadcast booth. Old school vs. new school, old rules vs. new rules. It is a fair wagethe vast majority of those in the pits, much less the stands, could recall personal actions that would overwhelm beer-gate; probably some in themiddle of the Shumacher team, too.

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