Skip to content

NBC and NASCAR made memories in last stint, with new ones to come

Jul 23, 2013, 3:20 PM EDT

DaleJr_Daytona_getty Getty Images

MotorSportsTalk’s two U.S.-based writers, Tony DiZinno and Chris Estrada, take a look back on NBC’s last stint featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup races from 1999 through 2006. In both instances, these were formative years of their racing fandom.

Tony DiZinno:

For 2013, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network became your official home of open-wheel racing with the acquisition of Formula One to go along with IndyCar coverage.

Now, we can amend that to say, it’s your official home of almost all racing.

In 2015, NASCAR will be back on NBC. The re-acquisition of North America’s number one form of motorsports brings together all three major motorsports championships under one roof. And it has the potential to reignite memories from NBC’s last stint with NASCAR, from 1999 through 2006.

Besides his role on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams is one of NASCAR’s most dedicated fans. He opened the coverage at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 1999, a race won by a then-unheralded rookie out of Indiana named Tony Stewart.

In 2001, we were treated to one of NASCAR’s most emotional victories, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway – the first Cup race at the track since he lost his father in that year’s Daytona 500.

The 2004 season featured two dramatic moments to open and close the year on NBC. Earnhardt Jr. took his first, and thus far only, Daytona 500 win on February 15, six years to the day after Dale Sr. won his only ‘500. It was also the first high-definition race aired in Cup history.

To finish off the season, Kurt Busch edged Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin to capture the first title in the Chase for the Nextel Cup era. Busch beat Johnson by eight points after a thrilling battle at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, in a race won by Greg Biffle.

All the moments were captured by an announce team that included Allen Bestwick, and later Bill Weber, calling every lap. But it was the late Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach Jr. who did it for me. “BP” and Wally’s banter was a nice counter-balance to the lap-by-lap coverage, and their analysis added valuable insights for viewers.

Having started watching racing in the late 1990s, I’d seen “BP” on the old ESPN Wide World of Sports coverage and when he joined the NBC crew when they took over the coverage, I was thrilled. It’s a shame he won’t be around for this newest incarnation, but I’m optimistic we’ll see a number of familiar faces returning to the broadcasts.

Chris Estrada:

For myself, the return of NASCAR to NBC is almost like going back in time to my formative years as a motorsports fan. I’ve learned to follow the series from a proper, objective standpoint in recent years, but when NBC had the rights from 1999-2006, I was still at the point where I had my favorites.

Above all of them was Dale Earnhardt – the Intimidator, the Man in Black, the man that got me hooked on this sport. I was 14 years old when we lost him in the 2001 Daytona 500, and I was crushed. So when the series returned to Daytona that summer, I (along with many others, I’m sure) was pulling so badly for his son.

I will never forget that race and the call from NBC’s Allen Bestwick that brought him home: “It’s going to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.! Using lessons learned from his father to go from sixth to first and score the victory in the Pepsi 400!” And then, the late, great and dearly missed Benny Parsons, chiming in with what we were all thinking: “Yes! Yes!”

That, along with seeing Earnhardt Jr. and then-teammate Michael Waltrip (who finished second that night) embrace afterwards on top of the latter’s car, was cathartic for me and the rest of the sport’s faithful. Junior had delivered one of the sport’s greatest wins, and Waltrip, who had won the aforementioned ‘500’ that February, got to have the celebration he richly deserved.

We all know life goes on through good times and bad times, but we needed to see that affirmed before our eyes. And it was. That wasn’t the only memorable moment we saw during NASCAR’s recent run on NBC, of course (see my colleague’s thoughts above). But it’s probably the one most fans remember fondly.

I’m willing to bet we’ll see a few more of them upon NASCAR’s return to NBC in a year and a half.

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR Trucks: Crafton still controls title race, but Bubba looming larger

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Kroger 200 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Battle for Truck Series championship becomes three-horse race.

  2. Bubba Wallace pays homage to NASCAR Hall of Famer Wendell Scott with encore win at Martinsville

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT

    (Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. won his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway last October. He returned to the short bullring one year later to win there again in Saturday’s Kroger 200.

  3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier trying to bounce back after missing Talladega

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:28 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Stenhouse and Allgaier will start mid-pack on Sunday at Martinsville.

  4. Haas: Starting F1 team my biggest challenge yet

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Gene Haas Formula One Press Conference Getty Images

    Says first five years in F1 are about surviving, but cannot see the project failing.

  5. Kevin Harvick quickest in final Sprint Cup practice at Martinsville

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Harvick turns in a 19.457-second lap around the Virginia half-mile to top “Happy Hour.”

  6. COTA set to provide Vettel with a dose of nostalgia

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    F1 US Grand Prix Auto Racing AP

    German driver looking forward to tackling the Circuit of The Americas in Austin next weekend.

  7. Dale Jr. Foundation gives brand new 2015 Corvette to ailing fan

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy WITN.com) (Photo courtesy WITN.com)

    Despite fighting breast cancer for the third time, NASCAR fan Wendy Smith decided to spend $25 to help others even less fortunate. Her gratuity paid off in a big way, earning a brand new $65,000 Chevrolet Corvette.

  8. Danica Patrick angry with NASCAR over ‘Dega qualifying, questions its diversity program

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Patrick not afraid to tackle thorny topics yesterday at Martinsville.

  9. Bubba Wallace honors Wendell Scott by earning pole for Martinsville Truck race

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

    (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) Getty Images

    On a weekend that carries a lot of significance for honoring NASCAR Hall of Fame-elect inductee Wendell Scott, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. paid tribute in his own way to Scott, earning the pole for Saturday’s Kroger 200 Camping World Truck Series race.

  10. Karthikeyan: F1 completely unsustainable for small teams

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix Of India Getty Images

    Former HRT driver casts his damning judgement on the current cost crisis in F1.

  11. Will the top powers in F1 now get the message about the cost crisis? Don’t count on it

    Oct 25, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-JPN-F1 Getty Images

    The demise of both Caterham and Marussia has been on the cards for some time, yet Formula 1 has allowed it to happen.

  12. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon pace early-morning Sprint Cup practice at Martinsville

    Oct 25, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Despite chilly temperatures in the mid-40s in the 50-minute early-morning session, Jimmie Johnson led all drivers in the next-to-last Sprint Cup practice with a best lap of 98.023 mph, the only driver over the 98 mph mark.

  13. Sir Jack Brabham’s life and legacy celebrated in special event at Silverstone

    Oct 25, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Australian F1 Grand Prix - Race Getty Images

    Over 400 people attend special event in celebration of Brabham’s life and legacy.

  14. Maldonado hoping for strong finish to 2014 season

    Oct 25, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Practice Getty Images

    Lotus driver has failed to score any points in 2014, but feels that next season will hold better things.

  15. Moto GP: Marquez breaks pole position record in Malaysia

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    MOTO-PRIX-MAS Getty Images

    Yet another record falls to the Spanish sensation in Malaysia.

  16. Marussia also set to miss United States GP

    Oct 25, 2014, 5:48 AM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-RUS-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Bernie Ecclestone claims that there will be just 18 cars racing in Austin.

  17. Jimmie Johnson: ‘That day is out there’ when he’ll split with crew chief Chad Knaus

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT

    (Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    In a surprisingly candid admission, six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson says that while nothing is imminent, the day is coming when he and crew chief Chad Knaus will go their separate ways.

  18. ‘Hey, I’m Kevin (Harvick), welcome to Outback. Can I get you a table?’ (with video)

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:32 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Outback Steakhouse) (Photo courtesy Outback Steakhouse)

    In a bemusing video released Thursday, NASCAR star Kevin Harvick spent one of his recent off nights working the room at an Outback Steakhouse.

  19. Jeff Gordon delivers 1 millionth meal for Drive To End Hunger to 89-year-old race fan

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy WFMYnews2.com) (Photo courtesy WFMYnews2.com)

    On Thursday, Jeff Gordon delivered the one millionth meal served by one of Gordon’s key sponsors, the Drive To End Hunger.

  20. Ex-John Force crew chief Jimmy Prock hired by rival Don Schumacher Racing

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:26 PM EDT

    Crew chief Jimmy Prock. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing) Crew chief Jimmy Prock. (Photo courtesy John Force Racing)

    Jimmy Prock, who resigned earlier this week as crew chief for 16-time Funny Car champ John Force, has been hired by rival Don Schumacher Racing.

Video from NASCAR America

Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. R. Preece (1940)
  2. K. Busch (1665)
  3. M. Kenseth (1512)
  4. R. Newman (1409)
  5. L. Cassill (1289)
  1. D. Coby (1256)
  2. K. Kahne (1186)
  3. B. Keselowski (1179)
  4. W. Pitkat (1170)
  5. J. Johnson (1141)