Jarrett part of booth trio, Wallace to be analyst on NASCAR Countdown

Updated: January 23, 2008, 1:34 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Cup champion Dale Jarrett will replace Rusty Wallace in the booth this season for ESPN's NASCAR coverage, and Wallace will become the lead analyst for the network's studio programs.

Dale Jarrett

Jarrett

Jarrett, who won the Cup title in 1999, will compete in the first five races this season before retiring. It will be a high school reunion of sorts in the booth, with Jarrett, lead announcer Dr. Jerry Punch and Andy Petree -- all of whom attended Newton-Conover High School in North Carolina -- calling the races.

Jarrett was a booth analyst for 10 Nationwide Series ESPN race telecasts last year and worked several Sprint Cup races as a guest analyst on NASCAR Countdown, the program that precedes all NASCAR telecasts.

Wallace, the 1989 Cup champion, will be the analyst for an enhanced NASCAR Countdown. He also will appear on NASCAR Now, ESPN's daily NASCAR news and information show, and will call several race telecasts in place of Jarrett. Wallace, who retired from racing in 2005, was an analyst for ESPN's IndyCar Series coverage in 2006, and moved into the NASCAR booth last season.

"We were pleased to have Dale with us in a limited role last year and look forward to his participation on a regular basis," said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president, studio and event production. "Rusty's enthusiasm, team spirit and knowledge make him an invaluable contributor to our coverage. These champion drivers in their new roles add tremendously to ESPN's championship team for our second year back in NASCAR."

Jarrett is not the first in his family to go into announcing after racing. His father, Ned, was a two-time Cup champion was part of ESPN's crew from 1988 to 2000 and became one of the most respected analysts in NASCAR. He offered his son advice when he began dabbling in the booth last season.

"He told me to relax and just talk like I do," Dale Jarrett said last summer. "I think that's the thing I always loved about my dad, he never tried to be somebody that he wasn't. And I can't be somebody else if I tried. So he just told me to relax and have fun with it."

In other moves, Allen Bestwick will host NASCAR Countdown, joining Wallace and analyst Brad Daugherty on the pre-race program.

Nicole Manske has been hired to host NASCAR Now, which returns to the air Feb. 4 on ESPN2, and will share the job with Bestwick and Ryan Burr.

In addition, Shannon Spake was promoted to full-time pit reporter to replace Bestwick. She'll be joined on pit road by returnees Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Mike Massaro.

ESPN will cover all 35 Nationwide Series races this season and the final 17 Sprint Cup races of the season.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.