Jul 23, 2013, 3:20 PM EST
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.
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.
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.
Feb 27, 2015, 7:41 AM EST
Spaniard posts a video on YouTube giving an update on his condition.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Brazilian driver still believes that Mercedes has the best car in F1 this year.
Feb 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Briton still manages to finish third on Thursday, but is limited to just 48 laps following the power unit issue.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:45 PM EST
F1 rookie happy with the final raft of updates on the STR10 ahead of the first race of the year in Australia.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
Spanish racer will get a chance to test the E23 Hybrid out on track at least once in 2015.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
Ferrari reserve driver speaks after completing his first running in the new SF15-T at a filming day in Barcelona.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Ex-Red Bull driver believes that Vettel will be rejuvenated following his move to Ferrari for 2015.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:15 AM EST
The VJM08 will finally make its on-track debut with three days to go in winter testing.
Ron Dennis clears up Alonso crash rumors; confirms he was briefly knocked unconscious but was not concussed
Feb 26, 2015, 7:27 AM EST
McLaren CEO meets with the media to quash incorrect reports surrounding Alonso’s accident in testing.
Feb 25, 2015, 5:13 PM EST
Justin Wilson’s offseason plight isn’t only budget-related, but due to a reduced number of available opportunities in IndyCar.
Feb 25, 2015, 2:45 PM EST
Brad Hollinger’s investment in Williams’ ownership moves from 5 to 10 percent.
Feb 25, 2015, 2:21 PM EST
Lineups and running order ahead of this week’s Barcelona test.
Feb 25, 2015, 11:27 AM EST
What Force India couldn’t gain in car evaluation it could gain in 2015 tire and different driver evaluation last week in Barcelona.
Feb 25, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
The Melbourne season opener is a little more than two weeks away.
Feb 25, 2015, 8:52 AM EST
Fernando Alonso is out of the hospital after his testing crash last week.
Feb 25, 2015, 8:30 AM EST
Nick Tandy will embark on a program of LMP1, LMP2 and GT Le Mans in 2015, with KCMG confirmation in WEC.
Feb 25, 2015, 8:22 AM EST
Force India confirms Friday car debut for the new VJM08.
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