To take drive down road never traveled


July 02, 1999|By Milton Kent

Ever just hop in your car and take off, without knowing where you're going or what will happen when you get there? In a certain sense, CBS and NASCAR are approximating that sensation with tomorrow night's telecast of the Pepsi 400.

The Winston Cup race will be the first to air in prime time on a broadcast network, and no one is quite sure what the result of the evening will be, since no one has ever tried this kind of thing before.

"It's a tough call," said Rob Correa, CBS Sports programming vice president. "Obviously, there's no precedent, but if there's anything that can draw viewers to the set, it's NASCAR and Winston Cup."

Before we bestow Lewis and Clark status on CBS programmers, a few items of perspective are in order here. First, the telecast, scheduled for last year but canceled in the midst of Florida wild fires, takes place during the Independence Day weekend, the time of the year when the level of households using television is at its traditional lowest.

And the race is an oasis of original programming nestled within the wasteland of summer reruns.

With February's Daytona 500 rating of 9.6 and 25 share as a ceiling, Correa says CBS will be happy with a 5 rating, which, under the circumstances, may not be that difficult to do.

Greg Gumbel returns to the same Daytona International Speedway course, where he was host for the 500 along with Ken Squier. Mike Joy will call the race, with Buddy Baker and Ned Jarrett as analysts and Dick Berggren, Ralph Sheheen and Bill Stephens reporting from the pits. Race time is 8 p.m. on Channel 13.

A fond farewell

While NBC will carry the men's and women's Wimbledon singles title matches this weekend with live morning coverage at 9 a.m. tomorrow and Sunday, the more poignant of moments may come tonight when HBO wraps up 25 years of coverage.

The pay cable channel has announced that it will not seek to renew its contract with the All-England Club. For those who appreciated literate, commercial-free coverage, the loss will be difficult. Bring your hankies for the 5 p.m. telecast.

Active seniors

Bruce Devlin, who played Columbia's Hobbit's Glen course, where this weekend's State Farm Senior Classic will take place, says the course wins thumbs up from the competitors.

"I didn't do too well on it last year when I played, but it's a nice venue and everybody was very happy with the way things worked out," said Devlin, ESPN's lead senior golf analyst. "I give it an 8 1/2 out of 10."

Devlin, 61, a native Australian who won nearly $2 million on the PGA and Senior tours as well as designing or building more than 140 courses, says the Senior Tour has lost some of the momentum it had accumulated in recent years, but should bounce back, once it gets infused with new blood.

"At the end of this year, we'll get [Tom] Watson and [Lanny] Wadkins and [Tom] Kite and [Bruce] Lietzke and that will help," said Devlin.

ESPN's coverage begins today at 1 p.m. and continues tomorrow and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Rick's run

If he's not careful, University of Utah basketball coach Rick Majerus will find more than other schools clamoring for his professional services. The networks will want him, too.

Majerus, who has done intermittent studio work for CBS, was brilliant Wednesday night during TNT's NBA draft coverage. He was insightful, thoughtful and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.

For instance, when he was asked about reports that he was being sought by the University of Minnesota for their coaching opening, Majerus, who isn't exactly svelte, said: "Too many bugs. If I take my shirt off up there, the mosquitoes are going to say, `Buffet.' "

Around the dial

The Women's World Cup tournament moves toward its conclusion with a semifinal doubleheader Sunday. The first match airs on ESPN at 4: 30, with the 7: 30 nightcap on ESPN2.

CNN raises the curtain on "Sports Sunday," billed as a "casual-style" news show, with Bob Lorenz and Laura Okmin and open phone lines each week at 10: 30 a.m.

The X Games get a peek on ABC (Channel 2) with coverage airing tomorrow and Sunday at 2 p.m. Of course, ESPN and ESPN2 will have telecasts throughout the weekend, heading toward Monday's conclusion on ESPN2 at 6: 30. And, finally, the Tour de France gets under way this weekend with coverage of the prologue tomorrow at 3 p.m. on Channel 2.

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