Kelli Stavast

Let the debate begin: NBC Sports experts make NASCAR picks

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Go ahead. Scan the four-driver teams the NASCAR on NBC announcers, analysts and writers have put together in the NASCAR America Draft.

Think you could do better?

Then try! It’s easy.

Take a look at the list of drivers at the bottom of this file. Select four drivers. But you can spend no more than 10 tokens for your four-driver team.

Do you take a former champion among those costing five tokens, leaving you with only five tokens to make your final three picks. Do you play it safer and go for a driver who costs four tokens? Do you go with veterans? All rookies? Something in between?

See the teams the NBC Sports crew put together and then do your team. And share it with us on social media using #NASCARAmericaDraft.

 

Jeff Burton’s team

Kevin Harvick (5 tokens)

Christopher Bell (2 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Michael McDowell (1 token)

I want a superstar. I’m going to go ahead and bite the bullet and spend five tokens on a superstar driver. … The reason I’m going to pick Kevin Harvick is because I know what he can get it done on the racetrack. It doesn’t matter what racetrack it is, he can be competitive. …  I’ve been his teammate. If I’m a car owner, I want that guy in the meeting, pushing to make everybody better, doing everything that he can to make himself better and everybody else. I know the intangible value that Kevin Harvick brings to the table.

 

Steve Letarte’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

William Byron (3 tokens)

Christopher Bell (2 tokens)

Corey LaJoie (1 token)

I’m going to take what I think is a cornerstone driver. When I look at the four token options, there are two great young talents in Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, I think they have a lot of upside, Kurt Busch is a champion, but I’m taking Denny Hamlin. I’m taking, in my opinion, the best driver who has never won a championship. Denny Hamlin, I know he’s a little bit older at 39 years old, but I think he’s as mature as he’s ever been. I think he can lead our organization to building good cars and giving good feedback. Why? Because he wins everywhere. … I think he would excel in that leadership role.

 

Kelli Stavast’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

Alex Bowman (3 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Ryan Preece (1 token)

I think Denny is a bargain at 4 tokens and Matty D is a steal for 2.

 

Rick Allen’s team

Kyle Busch (5 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Cole Custer (2 tokens)

Ryan Preece (1 token)

 

Kyle Petty’s team

Joey Logano (5 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Christopher Bell (2 tokens)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

 

Dustin Long’s team

Chase Elliott (4 tokens)

Ryan Blaney (4 tokens)

Corey LaJoie (1 token)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

Let me introduce you to the modern day “Rat Pack” that will continue to transform NASCAR, just as the original 1960s version altered popular culture and Las Vegas. No driver under 30 needs to apply for my team that will be strong for years to come.

 

Nate Ryan’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

William Byron (3 tokens)

Tyler Reddick (2 tokens)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

Denny Hamlin because he’s in his peak year at age 39 and is a steal for four tokens after a 2019 championship round appearance. Byron has the most potential of the three-token guys. Tyler Reddick might be a slight reach at two tokens, but he will win in Cup. Bubba has the transcendent appeal and charm to attract major sponsors if he can have some success in a good ride.

 

Daniel McFadin’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

Tyler Reddick (2 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Ryan Preece (1 token)

No Cup champions on my team, but I went with the best current driver to not have a title (Hamlin) who still has at least five years left in the tank. He can mentor Reddick. I like Preece and DiBenedetto as a pair of drivers in their late 20s with untapped potential who can motivate each other with a friendly rivalry.

 

Jerry Bonkowski’s team

Denny Hamlin (4 tokens)

William Byron (3 tokens)

Matt DiBenedetto (2 tokens)

Bubba Wallace (1 token)

Taking a driver worth five coins would really skew things, so it’s better – at least mathematically – to take one pick apiece from the other four categories. I expect big things from all four of my picks, particularly Byron and DiBenedetto.

 

NBC Sports ready to take fans the rest of the way to Miami

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We’re back!

In a season that has featured a scuffle on pit road at ISM Raceway, drivers beating and banging after the All-Star Race and three Cup races going to overtime, including the Daytona 500, NBC Sports is ready to bring you the final 10 Cup races of the regular season and then the 10 playoff races.

The intensity is just picking up.

Last year saw NBC Sports’ first Cup race of the season end with Dale Earnhardt Jr. yelling “Slide job!” as Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson battled on the last lap for the win at Chicagoland Speedway.

The excitement continued through the rest of the regular season and on to the playoffs where NBC Sports was there for the inaugural Cup race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and the dramatic finish that saw Jimmie Johnson crash into leader Martin Truex Jr. in the final chicane and Ryan Blaney going from third to the victory.

NBC Sports’ Cup coverage last year ended with Joey Logano’s win in Miami to claim not only the race but the championship.

NBC Sports will be there to bring you all the action the rest of the season for the Cup and Xfinity Series, beginning this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway on NBCSN.

Earnhardt, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton are back with Rick Allen in the booth. Marty Snider, Dave Burns, Kelli Stavast and Parker Kligerman will again be reporting from pit road. Krista Voda, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan will set the day’s activities each race weekend. And also at the track will be Rutledge Wood, who will tell some of the unique stories of the weekend.

Get ready to catch all the action on NBCSN and NBC.

Here is when you can see the rest of the Cup and Xfinity seasons:

Cup Schedule

(All times Eastern)

June 30 — Chicagoland (3 p.m., NBCSN)

July 6 — Daytona (7:30 p.m., NBC)

July 13 — Kentucky (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 21 — New Hampshire (3 p.m., NBCSN)

July 28 — Pocono (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 4 — Watkins Glen (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 11 — Michigan (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 17 — Bristol (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 1 — Darlington (6 p.m. NBCSN)

Sept. 8 — Indianapolis (2 p.m., NBC)

Playoffs

Sept. 15 — Las Vegas (7 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 21 — Richmond (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 29 — Charlotte Roval (2:30 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 6 — Dover (2:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Oct. 13 — Talladega (2 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 20 — Kansas (2:30 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 27 — Martinsville (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Nov. 3 — Texas (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Nov. 10 — Phoenix (2:30 p.m., NBC)

Nov. 17 — Miami (3 p.m., NBC)

 

Xfinity Schedule

(All times Eastern)

June 29 — Chicagoland (3:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 5 — Daytona (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 12 — Kentucky (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

July 20 — New Hampshire (4 p.m., NBCSN)

July 27 — Iowa (5 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 3 — Watkins Glen (3 p.m., NBC)

Aug. 10 — Mid-Ohio (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 16 — Bristol (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 24 — Road America (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Aug. 31 — Darlington (4 p.m., NBC)

Sept. 7 — Indianapolis (4 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 14 — Las Vegas (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Playoffs

Sept. 20 — Richmond (7:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Sept. 28 — Charlotte Roval (3:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Oct. 5 — Dover (3 p.m., NBCSN)

Oct. 19 — Kansas (3 p.m., NBC)

Nov. 2 — Texas (8:30 p.m., NBCSN)

Nov. 9 — Phoenix (3:30 p.m., NBC)

Nov. 16 — Miami (3:30 p.m. NBCSN)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to join NBC’s Indianapolis 500 broadcast

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NBC Sports announced its broadcaster lineup for this year’s Indianapolis 500. Here is the release from NBC Sports:

Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of racing’s most popular personalities and an NBC Sports motorsports analyst, will attend his first Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26, as a member of NBC Sports’ broadcast team when the 103rd iteration of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing airs on NBC for the first time.

This marks the latest in a series of major announcements for NBC Sports’ first-ever presentation of the Indy 500. Earlier this year, NBC Sports announced that Mike Tirico will host its coverage, and former IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick will serve as an analyst alongside Tirico. In addition to Earnhardt Jr., NBC Sports motorsports host Krista Voda and reporter Rutledge Wood will contribute to the network’s Indy 500 presentation.

Earnhardt Jr. made 17 career appearances and registered five top-10 finishes in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will serve as a roving reporter on race day, exploring the expansive scene that includes hundreds of thousands of spectators at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and contributing to NBC Sports’ pre-race, in-race, and post-race coverage alongside Wood. Earnhardt Jr. will also be featured on NBCSN’s Indy 500 coverage originating from Indianapolis Motor Speedway during race week.

Earnhardt Jr. amassed 26 NASCAR Cup Series victories during his storied career, including two Daytona 500 wins, and joined NBC Sports’ NASCAR broadcast team following his retirement from full-time racing in 2017.

“Dale Jr. is one of the most popular personalities in racing history, so adding Dale to our inaugural broadcast the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on NBC was a no-brainer.” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer and President, Production, NBC Sports & NBCSN. “Dale has never been able to attend the 500, and now he will have the opportunity to experience every aspect of this massive event –  from the party in the Snake Pit and the hundreds of thousands of fans in the grandstands, to the key strategic decisions and bold moves on track that will ultimately crown the 103rd Indy 500 champion.”

“I can’t wait. This is an event I have wanted to attend for as long as I can remember,” said Earnhardt Jr. “To get this first Indy 500 experience in this capacity – as part of the broadcast team with NBC Sports – is a dream. That said, I fully understand the responsibility we have of bringing this race to television viewers across the country. There’s no better broadcast team to do it. I’m blessed to be a part of it.”

In addition to his work on NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage, Earnhardt Jr. has also contributed to the network’s presentations of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Super Bowl LII, and the Stanley Cup Final.

NBC SPORTS ANNOUNCES FULL INDIANAPOLIS 500 BROADCAST TEAM

Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Townsend Bell (analyst) and Paul Tracy (analyst) will call NBC Sports’ inaugural Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC, which will feature a total of 14 commentators, the most-ever for NBC Sports’ coverage of IndyCar. Bell and Tracy have combined to make 19 career Indy 500 starts. Tracy was the runner-up in the 2002 Indy 500, while Bell registered a career-best fourth-place Indy 500 finish in 2009. Diffey, who will call his first Indy 500 this May for NBC, has called many of motorsports’ most prestigious events, including the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NBC Sports’ comprehensive Indy 500 commentary team includes host Mike Tirico and former IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick (studio analyst). Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rutledge Wood will provide on-site reports from in and around Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Krista Voda will also host pre- and post-race festivities.

Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee and Jon Beekhuis will serve as pit reporters for NBC Sports’ Indianapolis 500 coverage, along with IndyCar Insider Robin Miller and reporter Dillon Welch.

The 2019 IndyCar season is the first under a new media rights agreement that was announced in March 2018 in which NBC Sports Group acquired the exclusive rights to all NTT IndyCar Series races – including the Indianapolis 500 for the first time – qualifying and practice sessions, and Indy Lights races across its numerous platforms. Click here for more information.

NBC Sports’ coverage of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series continues Sunday, April 7, with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama from Barber Motorsports Park at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app.

NBCSN to broadcast special NASCAR America, Cup Awards at 8 p.m. ET

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NBCSN will have complete coverage of tonight’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards from Las Vegas, as the sport salutes Joey Logano‘s championship.

A special edition NASCAR America will air at 8 p.m. ET. with red carpet coverage. Carolyn Manno hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman. Marty Snider will be on the red carpet for driver interviews. Reigning Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon also will serve as a reporter on the red carpet.

The Awards show airs at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Rutledge Wood and Kelli Stavast host. Along with honoring Logano, the show will feature the announcement of the National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. an analyst for NBC Sports, his streak of 15 consecutive Most Popular Driver awards will end.

NASCAR America: Playoff crew chiefs look back at Martinsville, prepare for Texas

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Even though Kyle Busch left Martinsville with a 46-point advantage over the cutoff line, crew chief Adam Steven is cautious about how the playoff picture is shaping up entering Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

But that team is not the only one with questions with two races left to determine the drivers who will race for the championship in Miami.

Clint Bowyer, who is 42 points behind the cutoff line, practically needs to win to advance to Miami.

NASCAR America’s Kelli Stavast visited the shops of three playoff teams and talked to crew chiefs about what went right at Martinsville, what went wrong and their outlook for the remainder of the Round of 8.

Busch was one of the favorites to win last week’s race after securing the pole and running well in practice. He finished fourth. Stevens does not consider a trip to championship spot entirely safe.

“The cutline is flexible,” Stevens told NASCAR America. “It depends on how many (playoff) winners and non-(playoff) winners we have. We know for a fact there’s going to be one car get in on points, but it might only be one and it could be three. If someone could tell me what that number is going to be, I’d feel a lot better about it. The main thing is we try to keep that lead over the 78 and the 4.”

While Busch can be encouraged by a strong Martinsville run, Bowyer had a series of misfortunes that left him a lap off the pace in 21st. It was the third time in the playoffs that he finished outside the top 20.

The team expected to contend for the victory, given its win at Martinsville in March.

“It was way more of a struggle than we were anticipating,” Bowyer’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said. “Qualifying well, really competitive in practice, really close in setup. … That car pretty much sat in the corner ready to go back to (Martinsville); never raced anywhere else all year. We were a little shocked.

“I’m some senses I really felt like in the position we were in, no matter what, you were going to have to win one of these races to move on. I don’t think our position approaching the next two races really changes. Gotta just try and win one if we can.”

Chase Elliott entered Martinsville fourth in the standings, three points above the cutline. He finished in the top 10 (seventh), but left the short track 31 points behind.

When Stavast visited the Hendrick Motorsports’ shop, Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson told her if a team is too stressed out or anxious, it’s just a sign they are preparing for failure.

Elliott has a strong record at both Texas (four top 10s in five starts) and Phoenix (second last fall, third this spring), so they expect to be very relaxed.

For more, watch the videos above.

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