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NASCAR on NBC podcast, Episode V: Brian Vickers

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Brian Vickers, the NBC Sports analyst who returned to NASCAR after a nearly yearlong layoff, joins the fifth episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast.

Subbing for injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet, Vickers finished 26th in the season-opening Daytona 500 after running as high as fourth with fewer than 25 laps to go. It was his first Sprint Cup race since he was sidelined by a recurrence of blood clots heading into the March 2015 race at Auto Club Speedway.

Since then Vickers has spent much of his life traveling the world on business and working a new “day job” – as a studio presence on NBC Sports’ “NASCAR America.”

A promising career – he was the 2003 Xfinity series champion and has three Cup wins and a Chase berth – has been derailed by health problems that permitted only two full seasons since 2010. But the Thomasville, N.C., native said he is at peace if racing a car can’t be the center of his universe anymore.

Was there a moment that helped him arrive at that place?

“I think it starts with almost dying two or three times,” Vickers deadpanned. “That’s always a good way to accomplish that.”

Vickers, who will race the No. 14 again this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, also discusses:

–The last-minute scramble to get to Speedweeks, which he hadn’t planned on attending (but thankfully had a motorhome available for use).

–The globe-trotting he has done over the past year (to places as varied as Lichtenstein, Australia and Costa Rica) for the firm he became a partner in last year.

–His prospects for Sunday at Las Vegas and what he might be racing beyond this weekend.

Because Vickers is a busy man, we caught him on the run while heading into the Stamford, Conn., studio to tape Monday’s “NASCAR America,” so there are a few brief instances toward the end in which the audio is slightly choppy.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking below or download and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking here.

 

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Episode IV: Parker Kligerman, Ed Clark

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Parker Kligerman, both an NBC Sports analyst and a NASCAR driver, joins the fourth episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast to share his unique perspective on racing.

Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark also is a guest for the latter part of the episode.

Kligerman finished third in the season-opening Camping World Truck Series race last Friday at Daytona International Speedway. It was the first NASCAR start for Kligerman since last August and his first truck start since the 2014 race at Daytona. Perhaps most importantly, it was his first top five since October 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway, the latest highlight in a roller-coaster career for Kligerman, who is only 25.

After an opportunity in the Sprint Cup Series fizzled, Kligerman moved back to his native Connecticut, putting his NASCAR career at risk while dedicating himself to a new “day job” as an analyst at NBC Sports (whose headquarters are based in Stamford, near Kligerman’s boyhood home).

“I said, ‘I’m coming home,’ ” Kligerman said. “It was one of those off-the-cuff decisions. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I just thought life takes you so many ways. I was a little distraught with some things that happened at that time obviously in the sport. So I said, ‘I’m leaving. I’m going north.’ ”

Kligerman, who won an Xfinity Series pole position at Kansas Speedway in September 2009 in his NASCAR debut with Team Penske, also discusses:

–The differences between driving for tiny Ricky Benton Racing vs. a NASCAR powerhouse;

–His professional peaks and valleys, including how two fateful phone calls helped steer him in the wake of the April 2014 shuttering of his Sprint Cup ride;

–His assessment of the Daytona 500 and its thrilling final lap.

With its hosting of Sunday’s QuikTrip Folds of Honor 500, Clark’s 1.5-mile oval is hoping to benefit fromthe closest finish in the history of the Great American Race.  FoldsofHonor

With Atlanta trying a unique weather-related ticket promotion to appeal to fans, Clark discusses the prospects for making its late February race date work in its second year. Other topics:

–How Clark got into track management;

–What he worries about the most;

–What is the likelihood of Atlanta repaving soon (it’s good news for those who like rough asphalt).

You can listen to the podcast by clicking below or download and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking here.

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Episode II: Steve Letarte

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In the second episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, analyst Steve Letare puts his insightful sheen on myriad topics – many from the perspective of former crew chief.

With Tony Stewart out indefinitely because of a fractured back in an ATV accident, Letarte offers a unique view of whether drivers should be restricted from extracurricular activity.

“The most dangerous thing these guys do is their job on Sunday,” Letarte said. “You can do a lot of simple things dangerously. They were having a good time, and it was just an unfortunate circumstance. That’s reality. That’s life.”

But Letarte does concede that team executives responsible for multimillion-dollar sponsorships “are going to have to step in and put in some boundaries on these contracts. That’s a murky place to be, but I don’t think there’s any other way to do it.”

Other topics covered in the podcast:

–Explaining why Stewart’s injury actually removes pressure from novice crew chief Mike Bugarewicz. “I think he’d much rather have the stress, but I think he’s going to sleep better at Daytona unfortunately because he knows he doesn’t have superstar Tony Stewart behind the wheel,” Letarte said

–How losing a driver can be an enormous strain well beyond just performance in the car. Letarte didn’t have Dale Earnhardt Jr. for two races because of a concussion in 2012. “The hardest part is you’ve lost your partner in crime,” he said.

–Why Stewart might benefit from being able to return to the track before he’s cleared to race.

–Letarte’s view of the 2016 rules offering lower downforce.

–The areas where he wants to improve as an announcer in his second year and the knack he has for translating NACAR into English.

–What the hardest part was last season about not being a crew chief for the first time in a decade.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking below or download and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking here.

 

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Episode I: Kyle Petty

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In the debut of NBC Sports’ new NASCAR podcast, analyst Kyle Petty joins for a wide-ranging and freewheeling discussion of the major issues facing Sprint Cup entering the 2016 season.

With Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart‘s status uncertain because of a fractured back, Petty offered his view of the three-time champion’s recent stretch of misfortune. He also explained how drivers struggle to get over accidents involving death, noting his father, Richard, struggled with a 1965 drag-racing accident in which an 8-year-old fan was killed.

“He’d just leave the house for hours and walk through the woods and question whether what he was doing was what he should be doing,” Kyle Petty said.

Other topics covered in the podcast:

  • Does Stewart have a point that drivers need to be more outspoken to NASCAR chairman Brian France?
  • Who will fill the voids left by the departure of superstars Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart?
  • A comparison of Matt Kenseth to a wily veteran pitcher in Major League Baseball.
  • Why the discussion suddenly has thawed about team charters and bringing a de-facto system franchising to NASCAR.
  • Petty’s experience in running the day-to-day operations at Petty Enterprises … and why he might like to get back into team management.
  • A wonderful story about the time Lee Petty was chastised for spending too much money on a trip to New York.
  • A rundown of how he approaches his job on race weekends and during the week.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking below or download and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking here.