Dale Earnhardt Jr. on joining NBC Sports: ‘First real job I’ve had in 20 years is going to be an adventure’

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be part of 20 Cup Series race broadcasts on NBC Sports Group next season, but NASCAR might not be the only place you see him.

An avid cyclist who routinely rides dozens of miles weekly, Earnhardt could be a part of Tour de France coverage in the future.

“We’ve talked football, we’ve talked about the Olympics, we’ve talked about other parts of the company,” Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President of Production, NBC Sports, said in a Monday afternoon call introducing the 14-time most popular driver as a member of the network’s team starting Jan. 1. “I could see him being involved if it’s the right fit for him and for us. We’re not going to say, ‘Go off and do a feature on football.’ We’ll say, ‘Hey, does this make sense to get you involved?’ Be it the Super Bowl, the Olympics.

“There’s a lot of speed events in the Olympics. It could be an interesting match for Dale. There’s nothing locked in stone. It’s all about opportunity and the breadth of what we can do as a company, and I think that’s the most important part of what we’ve established in this partnership.”

Earnhardt pointed to his longtime allegiance to the Washington Redskins as a potential avenue for venturing outside NASCAR, but also said he primarily is focused on getting acclimated to his new role.

“This is the very beginning of this partnership,” said Earnhardt, who is retiring from NASCAR after 18 seasons on its full-time circuit. “I’m going to follow Sam’s lead on what I need to do to become as prepared as I can to do the job he wants me to do. I’ll make myself available as much as possible to give me the tools to learn quickly in this process as I gain confidence in myself and continue to improve, grow, learn and understand how this business works.

“As much as I’ve been around this sport, a lot of this is foreign. I’ve always just drove race cars. This is probably the first real job I’ve had in 20 years. This is going to be an exciting adventure. I’ll lean on Sam. I’m going to depend on him to point me in the right direction. Any experience outside NASCAR will allow me to learn and build my resume and gain continued confidence. I’m up to any challenge. I’m surrounded with great folks to give me the tools to do the job right.”

The versatility offered by signing with NBCUniversal, which allows access to a vast media portfolio that includes movies, TV and podcasts, was a major plus for Earnhardt, who has a production company (Hammerhead Entertainment) and a podcast network (Dirty Mo Radio).

“He’s a race car driver, a team owner, iconic racing figure but also as popular off the track and has tremendous crossover appeal across all forms of media,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Broadcasting and Sports. “NBCUniversal, we have great assets and includes sports, film, television. All of which are part of our ability to attract someone of Dale’s expertise in sports and interests in other forms of media to get him to join our team.”

Earnhardt said he began exploring TV opportunities nearly three months ago, shortly after announcing his impending retirement. He wrapped up the deal in the past few days after several weeks of negotiations.

The third-generation star grew up admiring broadcasters such as Barney Hall, Ken Squier and Benny Parsons, noting that “I’ve always been drawn to their jobs and how they carried themselves.

“It is a dream come true,” Earnhardt said. “This is an incredible opportunity for me to start a new chapter, basically an entirely new career. That was one of the exciting things about the conversations I had with NBC. They understand incorporating Dirty Mo Media and Hammerhead production company into a lot of things we do together.

“That gives an opportunity to grow. That was obviously an exciting part of the puzzle through this whole thing.”

Flood said Earnhardt’s passion for NASCAR and its history makes him a unique talent.

“He looks at it in a different way,” Flood said. “The conversations we’ve had is about how to grow NASCAR, expose new fans and make his passion for the sport come through to the fans. It’s fun to hear how curious he is about television, about the job and how can he step in and do a great job from Day One.

“We’ve talked about taking him out to one of the Sunday Night Football games and following Cris Collinsworth and seeing how the No. 1 show on TV gets made. Talked about going to the truck for a NASCAR Xfinity race to see the craziness of a TV truck so he understands how it works. And make sure he’s ready to roll with a team he already knows.”

Earnhardt will be joining a broadcast team that includes Steve Letarte, his crew chief from 2011-14, and longtime mentor Dale Jarrett.

“Being around people like that will allow me to be a lot more comfortable and lot less shy than in the past,” he said. “That was a key element that made me excited about this partnership.

“Everywhere I’ve had success before, I always had a great friendship with the people I worked with, a very comfortable environment with people around. That influenced me quite a bit knowing I had the opportunity to work with people I know quite well. Sam was incredibly honest. What I’ve learned about how candid, honest, up front he is, I like that directness. He’ll be a great person to be led by and to lean on. Those personal connections were important for me and NBC certainly lays a lot of opportunity on the table. They just showed a lot of encouragement and excitement about that opportunity to work together. It seemed a very, very good fit for me.”

While he missed the second half of the 2016 season recovering from a concussion, Earnhardt worked with the NBC booth of Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Letarte during races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway. The experience eased the way to go into broadcasting.

“The feeling in the booth, you think you have an idea what that’s like, but I had no idea how enjoyable that was until I did it,” he said. “I knew immediately in those moments going through my injury and going through the booth with Steve and Jeff that I definitely wanted to pursue this as an opportunity.”

 

Austin Dillon, Jeffrey Earnhardt in first wreck of Bristol night race

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The first big wreck of Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race occurred on Lap 232 of the scheduled 500-lap event.

It appeared Austin Dillon may have cut a tire and turned to his right, directly into the car of Jeffrey Earnhardt, sending both cars into the outside SAFER barrier and both sustaining heavy damage.

“We were running really good and all of a sudden the left-rear went flat,” Dillon said. “I don’t know what happened, if we had contact on that restart or our trackbar broke. My car chief said the letters on the Goodyear were rubbed off and about two laps later we broke.

“Our battery was going dead too, so it probably wasn’t going to be much longer we were going to be out of the race either way, but just a bummer. I really love this track and was having a blast tonight.  It sucks it had to end this way.”

Both cars were taken to the infield, with their nights likely over. That’s Bristol, baby.

Matt Kenseth wins Stage 2 at Bristol

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Matt Kenseth took the lead with about 10 laps left in Stage 2 when leader Kyle Busch pitted under caution. Kenseth went on to win the stage Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The second stage ended at Lap 250 of the 500-lap race.

It is Kenseth’s third stage win of the year. He entered the race holding the final playoff spot.

Jimmie Johnson finished second. Kevin Harvick placed third, Ryan Newman was fourth and pole-sitter Erik Jones finished the stage fifth. Jones was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Busch, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.

Busch controlled most of Stage 2 and seemed set to win it until crew chief Adam Stevens elected to pit for tires to help set the team up for the rest of the race.

Busch fell from first to sixth on a pit stop after winning Stage 1 because of a problem with the left rear tire. He worked his way back to the lead on Lap 167, passing Jones for the top spot.

Jones took the lead back on Lap 179 as they raced in traffic around Brad Keselowski, who lost four laps because of a cut left front tire from contact in the opening laps.

Busch regained the lead on Lap 199. He maintained the advantage on pit road shortly after that when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall and brought out the caution.

Martin Truex Jr. had a loose right rear wheel and pitted as the field took the green on the restart. He had to pit shortly after that when he was penalized for an outside tire violation. After serving the penalty, Truex was two laps behind the leaders.

AJ Allmendinger had to pit under green because he had a tire rub after contact.

Jeffrey Earnhardt and Austin Dillon crashed on Lap 232. Dillon spun up the track and Jeffrey Earnhardt had nowhere to go and slammed into Dillon’s car. Kasey Kahne hit the wall and Joey Gase‘s car as he tried to slow.

 

Kyle Busch passes Kyle Larson on final lap to win Stage 1 at Bristol

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Kyle Busch passed Kyle Larson on the final lap to win Stage 1 on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch and Larson dueled the final 11 laps of the stage. They made contact while racing in traffic while racing to Lap 125 of the scheduled 500-lap event.

Busch seeks to win the Camping World Truck, Xfinity and Cup races this week at Bristol for the second time in his career. He won all three races in 2010.

After Busch, who started 18th, was pole-sitter Erik Jones. Larson finished third. Chase Elliott was fourth. Matt Kenseth placed fifth. Kenseth was followed by Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

The stage win is Busch’s 10th of the season. Only Truex (15 stage wins) has more this season.

A couple of drivers had problems early in the race.

Brad Keselowski suffered a cut left front tire on Lap 5 and lost four laps by the time he pitted and got new tires. He was 38th at the end of the stage.

Aric Almirola brought out the caution on Lap 61 when he hit the wall. He was 33rd at the end of the stage.

List of driver introduction songs for the Bristol night race

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Here’s all the songs NASCAR Cup drivers selected for their introduction prior to the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones – “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled

Kyle Larson – “Dirt Track Thing” by Kenny Montgomery

Kasey Kahne – “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” by Brooks & Dunn (picked by Dale Earnhardt Jr.)

Chase Elliott – “Chevy Don’t Let Me Down” by Jeff Bates

Matt Kenseth – “Halo on Fire” by Metallica

Martin Truex Jr. – “That’s How We Do Around Here” by Florida Georgia Line

Denny Hamlin – “Jumpman”  by Drake

Joey Logano – “Energy” by Drake

Clint Bowyer – “How Country Feels” by Randy Houser

Ryan Blaney – “Life Ain’t Fair & the World is Mean” by Sturgill Simpson

Jamie McMurray – “Believer” by Imagine Dragons

Daniel Suarez “El Mariachi Loco”

Ryan Newman – “Hutin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Everyday” by Luke Bryan

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – “Chattahoochee” – By Alan Jackson

Chris Buescher – “E” by Matt Mason

Austin Dillon – “Ain’t No Mercy” by Rick Ross

Brad Keselowski – “Right Now” by Van Halen

Kyle Busch – “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons

David Ragan – “I’m from the Country” by Tracey Byrd

Trevor Bayne – “Sideways” by KB Featuring Lecrae

Jimmie Johnson – “What’s My Name?” (clean version) by Snoop Dogg

Ty Dillon – “Rise Up” by Petey Pablo

AJ Allmendinger – “Paper Cut” by Linkin Park

Danica Patrick – “Regulate” by Warren G

Kurt Busch – “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith

Michael McDowell – “Dream Team (I Had a Dream)” by Thi’sl

Paul Menard – “512” by Lamb of God

Aric Almirola – “Green Light” by Pitbull

Kevin Harvick – “Happy” by Pharrell

J.J. Yeley – “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher

DALE EARNHARDT JR. – “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy (Rock Remix) by Birdman and Lil Wayne (Picked by Kasey Kahne)

Cole Whitt – “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot

Landon Cassill – “Silver Bullet” by Hawthorne Heights

Matt DiBenedetto – “Gon Give It To Ya” by DMX

Corey LaJoie – “Lights Come On” by Jason Aldean

BJ McLeod – “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe

Gray Gaulding – “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi

JEFFERY EARNHARDT – “Good Life” by Tyler Hatley & The Little Mountain Band

Reed Sorenson – “Over and Under It” by Five Finger Death Punch

Joey Gase – “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas

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