NASCAR on NBC podcast

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 78: Kyle Petty on his Charity Ride

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For being committed to riding a motorcycle for several thousand miles every year – often without an itinerary – Kyle Petty is blessed with a necessary attribute.

“I have a crazy sense of direction,” the NBCSN analyst said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “I don’t know if it’s (because) I’ve traveled my whole life. I’m one of those guys who I can get to an intersection and something in my head says, ‘Go right,’ and it ends up being the right direction.”

In advance of his 23rd annual Charity Ride, which wraps up Friday, Petty discussed how he maps out the route ahead of time and why he has preferred two-lane roads to interstates throughout his life.

This year’s Charity Ride began in Portland and traversed Washington, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota before ending in Wisconsin.

The stops will include quirky attractions such as the Corn Palace and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

But Petty said the best part is encountering personalities such a six-time national hog-calling champion a few years ago.

“The coolest part of any ride we do, bar none, is the places are cool, but the people you meet make the places more special,” Petty said. “You meet genuinely nice people who want to come out and say hello or talk racing or talk about the camp.”

During the podcast, Petty also discussed:

–The ride’s connection with Victory Junction Gang Camp (which has been supported by more than $17 million in donations from the event);

–How NASCAR drivers evolved from racing for a hobby to racing for a living;

–The quintessential Lee Petty story about why winning the contested 1959 Daytona 500 was more about picking up a check than a trophy.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 77: Kelli Stavast on covering racing (and many other sports)

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NBCSN reporter Kelli Stavast joined the NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss her diverse coverage schedule and her journey to becoming a pit reporter.

After growing up in Denver and attending college in Southern California, Stavast was working as a freelance sports reporter when the call came to cover off-road racing.

“If you think you know nothing about racing, the idea of off-road racing, I had no idea,” Stavast said with a laugh on the podcast.

She worked as part of an on-air team with NBC NASCAR veterans Marty Snider, Dave Burns, Bill Weber and Wally Dallenbach Jr., leading to more work with the network. After a season of covering motocross, she was asked to cover IndyCar and NASCAR and make a move to Charlotte.

After two years of living in North Carolina, Stavast since has returned to Las Vegas to be with her fiancée, Gavin (whom she met in a chance meeting through his good friend, Kurt Busch). But she remains ingrained as a pit reporter in the NASCAR community, where she immediately felt at ease.

“I felt more comfortable in the garage and walking into team haulers,” she said. “In NASCAR, we talk to drivers as much as we can, but we rely heavily on talking to the crew chiefs and other team members because they’re spending that time in the haulers, in the garage.

“I’ve loved NASCAR, and for whatever reason I’ve felt comfortable from the get-go.”

During the podcast, Stavast also discussed:

–The main objective of being a pit reporter and the chaotic process behind the scenes of broadcasting a race;

–Her experience as an Olympics reporter on the Summer and Winter Games (including an amusing encounter with Jimmie Johnson on the ski slopes).

–The fun times she had at the Westminster Dog Show (and why she loved covering the winner).

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone.

It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 76: Brian Keselowski on Brad’s (awkward) meeting with Tony Stewart

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Brian Keselowski was the guest on the latest episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, discussing his journeyman racing career as driver and mechanic.

Keselowski, who recently opened his own business to help Xfinity, ARCA and other racing teams with preparing their cars, is the older brother of 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski, who helped push Brian into the field of the 2011 Daytona 500.

Brian and Brad Keselowski began racing a go-kart together on a makeshift dirt track (really a field) across from their father’s race shop. They both raced Late Models and other cars around the Midwest, and Brian recalled a humorous story about Brad’s first encounter with Tony Stewart on Berlin Speedway near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“(Brad) was there for a big show, and Tony was there as the big NASCAR driver,” Brian said on the podcast. “Brad had to make the field through a qualifying race. The top 12 transfer in, and he’s running 13th.

“Tony took the lead at the same time Brad was going to (get lapped), and they got together, and Tony spun out, Brad didn’t. Tony got so mad, he parked the car, and it just so happened that Brad was on the lead lap, so Brad got into the race because Tony spun out. It was interesting that was his first experience with Tony Stewart.”

Did it underscore that Brad Keselowski always had a penchant for challenging the establishment?

“Well, that wasn’t even on purpose,” Brian said with a laugh. “But yeah, it kind of looked that way, didn’t it?

“It’s funny. Brad’s always been looked at different at the track. He’s always looked younger than he is, so when he started as a 16-year-old in factory stocks, those guys didn’t like him then, either. He won eight to nine times that year, and they didn’t like getting beat by this little kid coming in and whipping up on them.”

Among other topics discussed on the podcast:

–The origins of the Keselowski family’s race teams and why being based outside North Carolina had its advantages.

–How Brian Keselowski won his first race as a jack man (making his debut in a Camping World Truck Series race at Bakersfield as a teenager).

–Why there was a “Keselowski for President 2016” car.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 75: Steve Letarte on a special photo with Dale Jr. and what’s ahead

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Steve Letarte tweeted a photo Tuesday of his family standing with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy, saluting the strong bonds they share.

He nearly picked a shot that wasn’t quite as family friendly … but said just as much about his friendship with the 14-time most popular driver.

“I was scrolling through the pictures in my phone, and I was a millisecond away from showing 15 overly served guys on a Wednesday night in 2014,” Letarte said with a laugh on the NASCAR on NBC podcast, describing a night of celebrating with Earnhardt and the No. 88 team at Margaritaville in Las Vegas just two weeks after winning the Daytona 500. “We sat around outside as friends for hours and drank buckets and buckets of beer and enjoyed each other’s company.

“I have a picture of us around sundown, and everyone has their arm around each other, and it’s the coolest picture.”

Letarte also has a photo of the sun coming up after an all-night party at Earnhardt’s property following their final win together in October 2014 at Martinsville Speedway, showing that “it is about the relationships” for the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

“It’s infectious,” Letarte said. “I was fortunate enough to win the Daytona 500 with him. But if I had to give back his friendship or the trophy, I’d give back the trophy.

“The accomplishments of my career are not the trophies. They’re easy to measure and easy to discuss, but the accomplishments of my career are  walking down pit road and seeing crew chiefs, car chiefs, people that were my engineers that I have I helped along in my career because that’s how I got there. Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham and Robbie Loomis helped me in my career.”

Earnhardt will remain a fixture in NASCAR after his 2017 retirement from the Cup Series as a team owner with JR Motorsports. He also is slated to drive in at least two Xfinity races and has hinted there could be more in the Camping World Truck Series and Late Models.

Letarte said it could depend on how the world adapts to Earnhardt being a part-time driver.

“It’s all how the racing community will respect him,” he said. “He would drive forever. Will the fan base be OK if Dale Jr. runs fifth in an Xfinity car? Will the fan base be OK if he goes to Martinsville and runs seventh to six young kids. Will the fan base be OK if he can’t dominate in a lower series? Because he’s not going to dominate, he’s going because he loves to race. If he could wear a costume, he’d go run a Late Model at Myrtle Beach now. That’s how he is.

“He’s smart enough to know he can’t be Dale Earnhardt Jr. and have all these partners and be this persona and be able to just hide. He can’t do both. So if the world will allow him, he’ll race a lot. I don’t know if the world is ready for that.”

Letarte said NASCAR is ready to handle the departure of Earnhardt on the heels of exits by Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, making the case that youth such as Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will fill the void left by the superstars.

“If everyone goes on stage, there still is only one spotlight,” he said. “There’s only room for how many people can be in the spotlight. There’s no argument Dale Jr. is a spotlight driver, as are Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. The spotlight can’t shine on someone else until it shuts off on someone. It’s not doomsday, and everyone is going to start cheering for soccer.”

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Ep. 74: Dale Jarrett on the ‘selfish’ new drivers vs. the ‘Young Guns’

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Just a few seasons after he won his 1999 championship in NASCAR’s premier series, Dale Jarrett’s position in the stock-car hierarchy was threatened.

The 2001-02 wave of the so-called “Young Guns” transformed the Cup circuit. As Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman entered the series, the trips to victory lane started to dwindle for establishment veterans such as Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott.

Nearly a generation later, Jarrett is watching as the same group of drivers that foretold his generation’s exit from NASCAR is facing similar threats from a youthful group of emerging stars that includes Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson.

“This group of (young) drivers, this isn’t saying anything negative, but I see this as a very selfish group, which you have to be to be successful,” Jarrett said on the most recent edition of the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “They’re going to race hard. They’ll take what they can get.

“There’s a lot more taking among this group than giving. On the shorter tracks and road courses, it’s going to be fun to watch.”

The context for the discussion was dissecting Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s decision to regain the lead lap by moving leader Kyle Busch near the end of the second stage at Martinsville Speedway.

That type of necessary aggression typifies the drive that today’s youth must show, Jarrett said during the podcast.

“I think it’s the world they grew up in and how hard they had to fight to get there,” the NBCSN analyst said. “Once you get to that point, there’s no reason in changing what you do just because you’re there. You can’t suddenly become a nice guy when you reach the top or you’ll find yourself on the bottom trying to climb to the top again.

“Harvick, Johnson and Kenseth have been in that point, but now they’ve had their success. It’s not that they’re still not selfish, they still want to do well. It’s not taking away any of their great talents and that desire they have inside to want to win every week, but they go about it differently.

“Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, they’ll continue this push they have. One day, it’ll change for them, too, but you have to have a measure of success when you look at that. You still have to be selfish all the way through the last race you run in your career. If you’re not, then you’ve probably driven too long.”

Jarrett won his Cup title shortly before his 43rd birthday, and Harvick, Johnson, Earnhardt and Kenseth all are in a similar timeframe on age now.

“My success came late, but once you get to your 40s, you realize you’re closer to end than anything else,” he said. “You start thinking of things differently. Most of those guys have families. All of that changes the way you go about it.

“That’s one thing I like about some of these young guys. Kyle Busch became a father. Joey Logano recently married. Kyle Larson is a father now. I think that changes your way of looking at so many things. You might ask, ‘How in the world does that make you a changed or better race car driver?’ but it does. There are things that happen that just make you look at things a little bit differently and appreciate things a little more on a bigger scale. Suddenly, you’re having more success, and you’re happier in life, and if you do that, things will be different.”

Jarrett developed a close relationship with Robert Yates Racing teammate Elliott Sadler, who was 18 years younger. He sees a parallel to Johnson’s relationship to Chase Elliott (the Hendrick Motorsports drivers are separated by nearly 20 years).

“You appreciate that that you’ve gotten to that point to help someone,” Jarrett said. “I’m appreciative that Elliott doesn’t have to get out of the race car and say anything about me, but a lot of times, he does. I’m glad I took the time (to help).

“At that time it was if I can help him, he was going to help me, too, and make our organization better. So that’s the way I looked at it. I’m sure Jimmie is the same way. Because once you become an established driver and have the feel you want, things keep changing. So you have to figure out a way to get back to that.

Jimmie probably is looking at it as Chase is fast. He’s doing a lot of things that are really, really good, can I look at what he’s doing and benefit from that? So he’s doing it because he’s a really nice person and a good guy, Jimmie is, but it can also help him down the road.”

During the podcast, Jarrett also discussed:

–Why points leader Kyle Larson has made a breakthrough in performance this season;

–His outspokenness on NASCAR America about disliking the use of restrictor plates at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway for stock cars.

–The differences between being a booth and studio analyst.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.