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NBC Sports to debut ‘NBC Race Team Broadcast’ at New Hampshire

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As part of its way of reinventing how it presents NASCAR races to fans, NBC Sports will present an analyst-only broadcast for the July 22 Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will call the race from the booth. Called from NASCAR on NBC’s traditional broadcast booth above the start-finish line, the “NBC Race Team Broadcast” will bring fans closer to their favorite drivers and teams as pre-playoff competition heats up at “The Magic Mile.”

Lead broadcaster Rick Allen will report from pit road to give fans a different view of the Cup race. Allen will call the Xfinity race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Saturday, July 21 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN alongside Earnhardt and Burton. Letarte will contribute from the Peacock Pit Box.

Allen will return to the broadcast booth for NBCSN’s broadcast of the Cup race at Pocono Raceway on July 29.

The broadcast lineup at New Hampshire is one of many NBC Sports has used and will use to broadcast Cup races this season. Already, NBC Sports has put its broadcasters in two separate booths and had Steve Letarte on the Peacock Pit Box. Additional variations are planned later this year.

“We have a multi-option offense, and are again excited to try a different booth setup for our NASCAR Cup Series race broadcast in New Hampshire,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer & President, Production, NBC & NBCSN. “We’re putting people in positions to make it fun for the audience, and the ‘NBC Race Team Broadcast’ will bring a unique and different perspective to the race.”

 

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. offers advice to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. about Daytona

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After bearing most of the blame for multiple accidents at Daytona International Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has some bridges that need repair.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Petty had some advice for Stenhouse Wednesday on NASCAR America.

The first question posed to Earnhardt on Twitter (using the hashtag #WednesDale) in this episode concerned Stenhouse and the proper protocol for reaching out when a driver is involved in an incident.

“If he text messages any of these drivers, that just shows that he’s not truly remorseful.” Earnhardt said.

Before the age of cell phones, drivers would settle their differences at the end of race. Kyle Petty recalled a race in which he intentionally wrecked Dale Earnhardt Sr. after the Intimidator roughed him up at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Afterward, Earnhardt approached Petty and asked what that was all about.

“I just got tired of your (expletive),” Petty said.

“I thought so,” Petty recalls Earnhardt saying. And that was that.

But in today’s age when drivers tend to go their separate ways after a race, technology takes over.

“In today’s world with technology and all that – if you’re gonna call a guy, call him the next day,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.

“If you wait until the next race weekend, the guy thinks that you’re not going to bring it up,” allowing the incident to fester.

After initiating an accident in 2009 by spinning Brian Vickers at Daytona, Earnhardt knew that it would take a while to rebuild trust among the other drivers.

“For Ricky, going forward, he needs to try to eliminate this from his next plate race,” Earnhardt said. “When he goes to Talladega later in the season, try not to continue this trend. Put a little space between this race and the next time you want to do something stupid. That’s what I always tried to do. If I screwed up, I’d lay low for a while.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones rocks the flow

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Erik Jones hails from Byron, Michigan – a three-hour, fifteen-minute drive from Mullett Township on the state’s northern shore.

As he stood on the frontstretch of Daytona International Speedway at the conclusion of the Coke Zero 400 with his mullet flowing in the breeze, Dale Earnhardt Jr. proclaimed it to be a victory for the hairstyle nationwide.

“It sure was,” Jones responded. “I was glad to get the mullet into Victory Lane. It was a long hard road to grow this thing back.”

That led the NASCAR America analysts to discuss how Jones’ flow stacks up against some other classic mullets from the past couple of years.

NASCAR America presented its Flow Chart – a comparison of Jones to Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.

“Chase – let’s be honest – when he puts that hat on and it goes crazy back there, that’s typically when his fans go crazy,” Rutledge Wood said.

Regarding Blaney’s hairstyle from 2017, Wood added: “I don’t know where in Ryan Blaney’s hair adventure last year that was, because let’s be honest it was monumental.”

But Blaney’s mullet fell to Roger Penske’s corporate image at the beginning of 2018.

Mullet heads worldwide don’t have to worry the same thing will happen to Jones.

“(Joe Gibbs) accepts it,” Jones said. “He just kind of lets it go for the most part.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Ryan: Plate race insanity needs more common sense driving

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Before delving into an analysis of something inherently irrational, let’s revisit some timeless wisdom from an Australian sage named Marcos Ambrose.

“This is crazy racing. We can legitimize it all we want, but it’s insanity on four wheels.”

It might be the finest encapsulation to date of restrictor-plate racing — and the sheer madness has only gotten worse since Ambrose’s brutal honesty after the April 26, 2009 race at Talladega Superspeedway that ended with a car in the catchfence and seven injured fans.

Now compounded by stage racing, playoff berth implications and the Peltzman Effect (the Cup Series has never seemed safer, and thus drivers naturally are inclined to be riskier than ever), this might be the most aggressive era in the 30-year history of plate racing.

The exorbitant costs of overtime hours in fabrication shop tell that story, as do the box score incident reports (“2,3,4,9,10,11,12,13,14,17,19,21,22,41,42,43,48,88,95,72,78,1,7,15,32,34 accident turn 3”) that read like a drunken night of bingo

There were six major wrecks involving an aggregate 70 cars in two races at Daytona International Speedway this season, and all happened within roughly 10 yards of the lead.

That’s unacceptable, even by the often untenable circumstances mandated by plate racing.

Spare us the righteous indignation about the “proper” methods of blocking. It stirs echoes of what Ambrose told us about the logic of applying behavioral norms to lunacy.

Just drive better, guys.

Or maybe smarter.

This isn’t aimed solely at Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who took the brunt of the criticism for another less than stellar display of driving Saturday night. The wrecks were a replay of several ill-conceived moves made at the Daytona 500, and not all of them involved Stenhouse.

He was the first to note that he couldn’t take umbrage at William Byron for a block that started the chain reaction in Saturday night’s first crash because the Roush Fenway Racing driver had done the same thing in February.

In both Daytona races this year, there often seemed a rush to go … nowhere. Though some of the moves were driven by midrace points being at stake, there still were a disproportionate number of contenders eliminated by crashes within the first two stages.

Wrecks are part and parcel to plate racing, which is built around large packs running inches apart, but the pileups historically have started because of bobbles deep within the long trains of cars.

Now they often begin at the front because of an overarching belief that plate races can won only by dictating the action from the point.

“To win these races, you really need to be the leader,” Stenhouse said after leading a race-high 51 laps. “To win the stages and really kind of control the field. I felt like when I was in the front, I could really kind of control the field and make them do what I wanted to do. That’s why everybody was so aggressive trying to get to the front.”

The absurd conventions of plate racing often make drivers take bizarre actions, such as slamming into each other in the corners at 200 mph. NBCSN analyst Kyle Petty once referred to that bump drafting era of the mid-2000 as Cup drivers’ “meth habit”, and the single-minded, hell-bent desire to stay up front constantly in 2018 seems just as addicting.

There’s a fine line between “managing” lanes of traffic and blocking them, yes.

There also is a fine line between reasoning and rationalization.

It seems in the rush to lead every lap if possible, what’s been lost is that drivers have options, even if they are less than perfect.

Instead of throwing a late block on a car closing at more than 200 mph, you can choose to stay in your lane and swallow the loss of positions.

Instead of staying in the accelerator when a car darts in front, you can choose to lift off and pull out of line.

Of course, there are the consequences of losing several spots, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will lose the race. Yes, it’s harder to claw back to the front with the current horsepower/spoiler package (a handling combination endorsed by drivers, by the way), but it isn’t impossible.

Race winner Erik Jones rallied from a lap down from crash damage (and also fell backward after missing his stall on the first pit stop). Runner-up Martin Truex Jr. lost the draft midway through Daytona and yet was in the lead for the final restart.

They earned the rewards available after many of their peers took unnecessary and early risks that did little but damage their series’ reputation for showcasing elite talent.

“NASCAR is built on beating and banging, but I think what you’d like to see is aggressive moves that don’t result in the incidents we saw,” NASCAR chief racing development officer and senior vice president Steve O’Donnell said. “Certainly we like the aggressiveness of drivers going for wins, that’s what the sport is founded on, but you hope you can avoid some of the contact we saw Saturday.

There are conflicted feelings about the results of the Coke Zero Sugar 400, which produced the best postrace interview of the season in first-time winner Jones and also a litany of underdog finishers. The final two laps were just as scintillating even with 80% of the field essentially eliminated from contention.

But it isn’t a good look for NASCAR’s alleged 40 greatest drivers to turn their vehicles into battering rams with all of the precision and skill of a group of fourth-graders in bumper cars.

And then make those same mistakes time and again at the world’s most famous racetrack in hopes of a better outcome.

It sounds like another way to define insanity, actually.


Another contributing factor to the craziness of plate races? The rule outlawing advancing position by running beneath the yellow line, which restricts the amount of real estate with an imaginary boundary that drivers treat like a wall to help pin the competition.

The rule was created to stem the preponderance of multicar crashes that resulted from drivers racing on the apron and often off Turn 2 onto the backstretch.

But it receives much more attention when it determines race winners as it did Friday after Justin Haley dipped below the line to take a checkered flag that was awarded to Kyle Larson.

O’Donnell said drivers were informally polled about the yellow line rule last year, and the feedback was unanimous in wanting to keep it.

“Chaos would ensue” without it, O’Donnell said. “You never want to have to make that call (that decides a win), but that’s the rule.”

There almost certainly will be further discussion of the yellow line between NASCAR and drivers in the wake of the Daytona call (Ryan Newman, who has long challenged the validity of a racetrack with an out-of-bounds line, raised questions about in Saturday’s drivers meeting about the legality of Haley’s pass), but expect things to remain status quo.

The rule can’t be enforced arbitrarily, allowing last-lap passes that heretofore weren’t legal would undermine the integrity of a race.


It appears the rules for the cars also will remain static when NASCAR returns to Talladega Superspeedway in three months after a lackluster visit to the 2.66-mile oval in the spring.

NASCAR increased the width of the spoiler by a few inches on both sides at Daytona and also returned horsepower to where it had been in Speedweeks.

O’Donnell said driver feedback was positive about the impact on being able to maneuver, which should bode well after drivability had been a major problem at Talladega.


Saturday night was a major reminder that plate driving is the biggest weakness in Truex’s game, but the defending series champion almost seemed relieved despite letting the win slip away on the final restart.

“All in all, I think for us it was a good night, and did all the things we needed to do,” he said. “I’ve just got to work on my mirror driving skills. I’m not real good at it. And just happy to get through here alive and finish.  I joked all week that I hadn’t finished this race in eight or ten years, and that’s not ‑‑ I mean, it’s kind of funny but it’s not really.  It’s true and sad.”

Actually, it had been only four years since Truex had finished on the lead lap of a July race at Daytona, but the results probably run together in his 0-for-54 streak in plate races.

He has joked before that he needs to be “more of a jerk” to win at Daytona and Talladega. But if the Kryptonite in your stock-car skillset is being unable to guess how to drive like the annoying masses who refuse to merge and hog the left lane of every highway in America … well, we can think of worse deficiencies.


An overlooked nugget from Saturday night: Was that the last time we’ll see an Earnhardt race at Daytona?

After seven Cup starts this season, Jeffrey Earnhardt has no races scheduled after his 11th Saturday. He hung around for an extended selfie session he held in the pits with friends and sponsors. “We might have abused our pass limit, but thankfully we got NASCAR to allow us to bring all these guys out here,” he joked.

It could be remembered as apropos goodbye as a salute to a family legacy that became synonymous with the 2.5-mile oval in triumph and tragedy.

Dale Jr. Download: Kyle Busch’s antics are good for NASCAR

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There is an old adage that says there is no such thing as bad press so long as they spell your name correctly. Kyle Busch would seem to adhere to that saying – and as it turns out, apparently so does Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Whether you like Kyle Busch or not, it doesn’t really matter,” Earnhardt said on this week’s Dale Jr. Download podcast. “If we can get that every week, it’s what we need – no matter who’s in the mix and creating that drama.”

Busch taunted fans by wiping imaginary tears from his eyes on the frontstretch his rough-and-tumble, last-lap duel with Kyle Larson for the win last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I’m not saying that made me a huge Kyle Busch fan or a bigger fan of Kyle Busch” Earnhardt said. “I’m saying that what he did is necessary in sports and entertainment. Even though he stirs that pot and aggravates more fans, that’s better than nothing happening and us going home bored to death.”

And it was the immediacy of the frontstretch interview that allowed for added drama.

“All the theatrics don’t happen if we interview him in Victory Lane. … People complain about the double interview – some fans do not like the winner getting interviewed twice, but you don’t get what we got … without that happening. We need that interview on the front straightaway because it’s instantaneous.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.