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Mindful of a sponsor slip

Announcers must play name game

Here's almost everything you need to know about today's Daytona 500 (Channel 7, prerace at noon, green flag approximately 1:30 p.m.): Row 1: Nextel, NBC, Fox, Fx, TNT, MRN, Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford, Goodyear.

Row 2: ALLTEL, America Online, Arnold Development, US Army, Budweiser, Brawny, Caterpillar, Cheerios, Cingular, Coors Light, DeWalt, Dodge Dealers, DuPont, A.J. Foyt Racing, GMAC, Grainger, Georgia-Pacific, GM Goodwrench, Havoline, Home Depot, Interstate, Jasper, Jackson-Hewitt, Kellogg's, Kodak, Lowe's, Miller Lite, M&M's, Motorcraft, NAPA, National Guard, NetZero, NBA All-Star Game on TNT, Sharpie, Schwan's Home Services, Speed Racer on SPEED, Target, Tide, UAW/Delphi, UPS, Ultra Motorsports, Valvoline, Viagra,

Row 3: Aplus, AutoZone, Best Western, Busch, Coca-Cola, Craftsman, Dasani, Domino's, Duracell, Exide, Featherlite, Ford trucks, Powerade, Gillette, Goody's, International Truck & Engine Co., McDonald's, Minute Maid, Mobil 1, Oral B, Raybestos, Sunoco, Toyota, Visa, XM Satellite Radio.

There are many more rows, but you get the idea. While NBC says it will wrap today's race in the American flag, it's too late. Corporate America already has wrapped it with its labels, logos, and log-ons.

Of course, the one notable omission from the list of NASCAR sponsors is Winston. It's now the Nextel Cup instead of the Winston Cup, a change that will sorely test decades of "imprinting" on the NBC announcing team of Allen Bestwick, Benny Parsons, and Wally Dallenbach, plus "The Pit Crew" of Bill Weber, Dave Burns, Marty Snider, and Matt Yocum.

The broadcast team already has started a charity pot ($10 per on-air slipup) any time someone uses the "W" name.

"It's in your subconscious to say the name of a sponsor that's been around so long," said Bestwick. "We've got `Nextel' on a big piece of tape across the monitor we watch in the booth." "I've got `Nextel' written on the mirror in my hotel room," said Weber. "It's the first thing I read in the morning and the last thing I see at night. Still, I'm sure I'll be contributing to the charity fund."

New Englander Sam Flood produces the telecast, but it's director Mike "H.D." Wells who is the key non-competitor today. He'll be calling the camera cuts as NBC produces the race in high definition for the first time.

"Racing is very much a lateral sport," said Wells. "That fits right into the 16:9 [widescreen] high definition format. The picture will be sharper and crisper. You'll see more and feel more in the broadcast because it's also in Surround Sound."

Weber is almost poetic in his appreciation for Daytona, the only Nextel race NBC will air until the July 11 Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland. Fox takes over with next week's Subway 400 at Rockingham, N.C., as the networks split the schedule each year, alternating coverage of the season-opening Daytona race.

"I call Daytona bigger than the Super Bowl because it's NASCAR's showcase and every team is involved," said Weber. "In the NFL, most teams are eliminated by the Super Bowl; here, you have 45 teams and 43 of them will be running.

"Oh yes, you can call it racing's answer to the Masters, too. Only the best are here. People know how special it is. Winning this race is like winning the green jacket at Augusta."

Wells will have 88 cameras at his disposal, including the in-car cameras and one mounted on defending champion Michael Waltrip's helmet. Others will be in the track wall, embedded alongside the track, and over pit road. In addition, one of Waltrip's crew members will wear a helmet-cam for another look at the action on pit road.

Analyst Dallenbach wore the helmet cam while competing in yesterday's Busch series race.

"It's how I stay current," he said. "I can talk about the car changes and the tire changes because I'm out there driving. I think it helps me in the booth on Sunday."

Features Dept.

Today's Daytona prerace segments include a feature on Joe Gibbs's return to the NFL with the Redskins and Dale Earnhardt Jr. taking to the track in a vintage 1979 stock car . . . During the race, In Demand is offering a free preview of its season-long seven-channel service (available on digital cable) that allows viewers to choose -- and switch -- among seven cars outfitted with in-car cameras, listen to team audio communications, and view real-time data on the car's virtual dashboard. The full season of 36 races costs $129, with a $99 special if ordered by Feb. 22 . . . When last we saw John Rooke, the Gillette Stadium PA announcer was addressing the huge crowd at Boston's City Hall Plaza while the Patriots parade was wending its way through Boston. Now Rooke has added another venture to his lineup, which includes being an ESPN Radio host and doing play-by-play for both Boston College football and Providence College basketball. Rooke has launched to link to and carry and archive broadcasts of Rhode Island high school and Brown University games. New Pawtucket Red Sox analyst Steve Hyder leads the site's broadcasting staff.

Holding back

Red Sox TV analyst Jerry Remy postponed back surgery that was scheduled for last week. He's awaiting further tests and now hopes to pursue a more conservative treatment . . . Atlantic Coast Conference territory, soon to include Boston College, is buzzing with talk of a yet-to-be-finalized new TV rights contract with ABC/ESPN. The networks stand to double their inventory of games, with member schools receiving in the neighborhood of $2.5 million per year. Still to be renegotiated is the football syndication package (for non-network games), which the league has had for decades with Jefferson-Pilot, not to mention a revamped basketball package. "It's looking as if BC is going to make out very well financially with its move to the ACC," said TV industry consultant Kevin O'Malley. "This looks to be a very good deal for the ACC." . . . NESN's Outdoor Guy goes hunting and Harley-riding with Sox player Kevin Millar on "Charlie Moore Outdoors" tonight at 8 . . . NESN also has Boston University-Vermont basketball at noon today . . . Channel 56 got so many requests for copies of its Patriots musical season wrapup that the station decided to give viewers a VCR opportunity by airing it again on tonight's "Sports Zone" at 10:45 . . . Tomorrow night, Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas, and Bill Raftery call ESPN's "Big Monday" basketball matchup of Notre Dame at Syracuse at 7. An hour later, NESN picks up BC-Seton Hall with John Sanders and Jim Spanarkel . . . Dr. Ben Huang was a rocket scientist in the United States at one time. Now he's a golfing entrepreneur in China, working on the perfect grip for golf clubs. The Golf Channel's Adam Barr profiles the man and his company in the season premier of "What's in the Bag?" tomorrow at 10:50 p.m.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is

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