PASADENA, Calif. — If you're not interested in NASCAR, you're going to want to avoid ESPN over the next five weeks.

The auto-racing franchise returns to the network after a six-year absence. Actually, it's not returning to just the ESPN channel but to what we might want to think of as the ESPN, um, experience.

"We fully intend to deliver and make this a perfect marriage between NASCAR and ESPN," said ESPN senior vice president Jed Drake "And stop thinking about ESPN as one entity. ...But it's ESPN. It's ESPN2. It's ESPN on ABC. It's ESPN HD. It's ESPN2 HD. It's ESPN Deportes. It's ESPN the Magazine. It's ESPN Classic. It's, ESPN News, ESPN Radio, ESPN International and ESPN 360. You get the picture.

"It's the most comprehensive presentation, and you will see NASCAR every day on all of those platforms continually. It's a multimedia partnership that's never been touched in the world of sports television."

Whew! When will they find time for little things like the NBA and college basketball?

And you've got to wonder what the folks at the NBA, NFL and major-league baseball will think if what Drake told TV critics is true.

"For 2007, NASCAR is the focus — the absolute focus for ESPN," he said. "It is one of the top priorities for the entire company. The level of production and presentation will be everything that we have put and brought to bear on 'Monday Night Football.' It is the same level of dedication, it is the same effort, it is the same quality of presentation.

"Quite literally, in terms not only of presentation and quality, but whether you see, hear, read about NASCAR, you are going to do it on every ESPN platform."

Hope you like NASCAR. If not, you might have to avoid the Wonderful World of ESPN over the next few weeks.

BRENT MUSBURGER will be the lead voice of NASCAR on the ESPN networks, and he's up-front about his relative lack of expertise.

"I'm not an expert on automobile racing. When I need something fixed, I call my man Rusty over here and he tells me how to jack a car up to change a tire," Musburger said. "However, the one thing that NASCAR has always had ... and that I love the best of all are the stories that come out of it — the human drama, if you will, and the personalities."

That's got to sound a little bit scary to NASCAR fans, given Musburger's recent performance during the Las Vegas Bowl. If he's going to concentrate on personalities rather than the actual event he's supposed to be covering, well, that's going to tick a few people off.

Hey! Maybe ESPN could get Jerry Tarkanian into the booth when ESPN airs the Busch Race at Daytona on Saturday, Feb. 17!

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