Video: Technical Difficulties Left ESPN’s NASCAR Countdown Missing A Few Numbers

  • Timothy Burke

A technical failure in Bristol left ESPN’s NASCAR pre-race show a mess of interuptions, false starts, and off-air commentary that suddenly found itself on-air.

Midway through the countdown to the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 in Pocono a glitch at ESPN’s Connecticut headquarters left the network unable to successfully cut away from the remote broadcast. This left Countdown hosts Nicole Briscoe, Brad Daugherty, and Rusty Wallace live on the air without their knowledge. The result? Daugherty and Wallace discussing how they deserve a pay raise, Briscoe’s panicked attempt to follow the on-the-fly schedule changes from the producer/director (by responding “blahblahblah”), and Daugherty’s rendition of “Rain, Rain, Go Away” — all this while the malfunctioning master control tried unsuccessfully to play back commercials whether the time was convenient or not.

[To avoid confusion, note that edits marked by white flashes of the screen are ones we added to save time. All the other odd interruptions and jump cuts were as broadcast.]

The problem, as stated by NASCAR reporter (and former ESPN employee) John Daly, involved the spot (advertisement) server portion of master control, which interrupts the remote feed in order to play back commercials. When it failed, the master control handed the network back to Pocono, far earlier than anyone had expected.

ESPN replaced the malfunctioning component by the end of the broadcast, though as you can see in the video the first switch was far from graceful. It would not be baseless speculation to assume the failure caused major headaches at the network — after all, in a manner of speaking, the machine that plays back commercials is the most expensive piece of equipment the company owns.