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ESPN SpeedWorld

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

ESPN SpeedWorld
Title card used from 1987 to 1992.
StarringBob Jenkins
Larry Nuber
Marty Reid
Dr. Jerry Punch
Bob Varsha
Paul Page
Dave Despain
Jackie Stewart
Country of originUnited States
Running time1 to 4 hours (depends on Live or Tape Delay event)
Original networkESPN and ESPN2
Original release1979 (1979) –
2006 (2006)

ESPN SpeedWorld (formerly Auto Racing '79–'86) is the name of a former television series broadcast on ESPN from 1979–2006. The program that was based primarily based around NASCAR, CART, IMSA, Formula One, NHRA, and IHRA. The theme music is based on the piano interlude from "18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)" by Cat Stevens.


ESPN Auto Racing (1979–1986)

When ESPN debuted in 1979, one of the first sporting events that they covered was auto racing. Initially the name of the show routinely changed to fit with the corresponding year at the time. Thus, when the program debuted, it was called Auto Racing '79, and then Auto Racing '80, Auto Racing '81 and so forth. This practice was dropped after 1986, when the name of the program was changed to SpeedWorld. The original commentators were primarily Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber, who covered many diverse types of competition. Ultimately, by 1987, SpeedWorld's coverage encompassed not only Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR Winston Cup (and its feeder series such as Busch Grand National, ASA, and ARCA), and IMSA Sportscar Racing, but also racing less familiar to the average person, such as NHRA drag racing, USAC sprints and midgets, rallying, motorcycle racing, monster trucks and more. So many types of racing that were vastly different meant that specialization in broadcasting teams was necessary, so while Jenkins and Nuber continued with Winston Cup coverage, newer faces such as Paul Page and Bob Varsha began to take their places for broadcasts of other racing.

Impact of NASCAR

ESPN began showing NASCAR races in 1981 with the first event being at North Carolina Motor Speedway, which brought NASCAR to huge popularity. The last of its 265 Cup telecasts (that number includes some on ABC Sports) was the 2000 Atlanta fall race (now the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500). ESPN and ESPN2 continued to air Craftsman Truck Series races in 2001 and 2002.

SpeedWorld's final years

After losing the rights to NASCAR Winston Cup (and Busch Series) broadcasts for the 2001 season, ESPN slowly began losing the remainder of their racing to other networks. For their 2002 season, CART signed a TV contract with Speed Channel and CBS, ending ESPN's partnership with CART that had begun 20 years before. NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series left ESPN, also for Speed Channel, in 2003. For 2004 the International Race of Champions likewise moved to the Speed Channel. Since ESPN's reporters were no longer allowed (by NASCAR) to report from within the racetrack for RPM 2Night segments (due to their contract with Fox and NBC/TNT), the weeknight show eventually came to an end. However, ESPN was not completely without racing, as Indy Racing League, its Indy Pro Series development championship, and the NHRA were still on ESPN's lineup.

The SpeedWorld blanket title was discontinued in 2006; the final event aired under the branding was an NHRA championship event in Pomona Raceway. Sister network ABC maintained a package of IndyCar events produced by ESPN (pay television rights are held by NBCSN). NASCAR events would return to ESPN and ABC from 2007 to 2014, holding rights to the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series; these events were instead branded as NASCAR on ESPN. After the NHRA left ESPN for Fox after the 2015 season and the IndyCar Series left after 2018, the only motorsports coverage on the ESPN networks is Formula One races on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 (which is simulcast with Comcast-owned British broadcaster Sky Sports); the last Formula One season ESPN previously covered under the SpeedWorld banner was 1997, before moving to Fox Sports Net and then-Speedvision the following year (although for a while when Speed aired Formula One, ABC were allowed to broadcast North American Grands Prix).

On-air staff

This list does NOT include those who appeared on the air on ABC only, or were not a part of ESPN before 2007.


Expert analysts (drivers and crew chiefs)

Pit reporters and RPM 2Night contributors

Memorable quotes

  • "Bill Elliott is racing into the record books. Bill Elliott is going towards immortality. Bill Elliott gets the checkered flag! Bill Elliott has won an additional one million dollars in 1985!"

Larry Nuber calling the 1985 Southern 500, when Bill Elliott won the Winston Million in its first year of existence

Bob Jenkins calling the 1989 Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Carolina, when the two protagonists unbelievably made contact on the final lap

  • "Bill Elliott comes off the fourth corner; he wins the Hooters 500! And Alan Kulwicki is coming out of corner number four, knowing that he's winning the championship. There's the checkered flag for Alan! He's the champion for '92!"

Bob Jenkins calling the 1992 Hooters 500, when owner/driver Alan Kulwicki beat multi-championship car owner Junior Johnson's Bill Elliott by only 10 points; a new record

  • "Labonte is sideways, but wins the race, crashes and he wins anyway! How about that?! Woah! Labonte crossed the line sideways, took the checkered flag, hit the wall and still comes out the winner of the Goody's 500 over Dale Earnhardt!"

Bob Jenkins calling the 1995 Goody's 500, when Earnhardt bumped leader Terry Labonte exiting Turn 4, and Labonte crashed just after sliding across the finish line

  • "De Ferran, Blundell; here comes Boesel in third! To the line they come! And Mark Blundell takes the victory!"

Bob Varsha calling the 1997 Budweiser Grand Prix of Portland, when Mark Blundell won the drag race with leader Gil de Ferran off the final turn by .027 of a second (27 thousandths), with Raul Boesel joining the photo finish just .055 of a second behind

Marty Reid calling the 1998 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finale at Las Vegas, where Jack Sprague won the race but fell short on the championship to Ron Hornaday Jr.

  • "Coming to the white flag, there's a leader change and Labonte takes the lead! (pause) Ohhh!!! And Earnhardt spins him out!"

Bob Jenkins calling the 1999 Goody's Headache Powder 500, when Dale Earnhardt bumped Terry Labonte in Turn 2 of the final lap

  • "Oh look out! We got trouble, this is going to hurt!"

Marty Reid, which later he would say "keep your fingers crossed" after the accident, calling the big wreck on lap 57 at the Daytona truck race in 2000, when Geoff Bodine had an horrific crash which sent him towards the fence

Dr. Jerry Punch calling the 2000 Winston 500, which was Earnhardt's final Winston Cup win

Paul Page calling Gil de Ferran's qualifying laps at the California Speedway when the Brazilian set the all-time closed-course speed record in competition

  • "Back in March of '81, Darrell Waltrip took the checkered flag to win the very first race we televised on ESPN, and in November 2000, Jerry Nadeau wins the final NASCAR Winston Cup race on ESPN!"

Bob Jenkins calling the 2000 NAPA 500, ESPN Speedworld's final Winston Cup broadcast

  • "De Ferran's right there doing everything he can; de Ferran goes high and de Ferran takes Kenny Bräck! De Ferran takes him on the final corner of the final lap and Gil de Ferran wins his first race of the year!"

Paul Page calling the 2001 Rockingham 500, when Gil de Ferran passed CART title rival Kenny Bräck on the outside of the final turn on the final lap

See also

External links

This page was last edited on 7 March 2021, at 21:24
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