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 AMERICA: Edwards and Kahne on rest of Chase format (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Cheez-It 355 At The Glen - Practice Getty Images

    Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne check in on the Contender round of the new Chase format.

  2. NASCAR AMERICA: Jimmie Johnson on “flying under the radar” (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    Sylvania 300 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Jimmie Johnson not a fan of the “under the radar” terminology.

  3. NASCAR Truck penalty for No. 20 team upheld

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    nascarlogo

    A P2 penalty issued to No. 20 NASCAR Truck team upheld after appeal.

  4. Caterham denies future is at risk despite goods being seized

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Caterham Getty Images

    Bailiffs seize goods at Leafield, but Caterham issues a statement saying that it is business as usual.

  5. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 pm ET — All 12 drivers in Chase Contenders Round

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT

    141001-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America goes in-depth with all 12 drivers in Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, also known as the Contenders Round.

  6. Report: Australian-owned team, driver and sponsor to debut in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2015

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    NCWTS logo

    While Marcos Ambrose is returning to his native Australia after this season, a new Australian-owned team is set to make its debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next season, complete with an Australian-born driver and Aussie primary sponsor.

  7. Bill Elliott makes awesome $4.2 million real estate deal

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    (Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Bill Elliott figured real estate would be a good investment many years ago, and did that belief ever pay off for the soon-to-be NASCAR Hall of Famer.

  8. Ryan Villopoto leaving American motocross, will race MXGP series for ‘final year of racing’

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Photo credit: Matt Rice/ProMotocross.com Photo credit: Matt Rice/ProMotocross.com

    Kawasaki officially announced that reigning supercross champion Ryan Villopoto will head to Europe next year to race the MXGP series. Davi Millsaps and Wil Hahn will replace him on the American Monster Energy Kawasaki team.

  9. Will Michael Waltrip survive Round 4 elimination on Dancing With The Stars?

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Dancing With The Stars) (Photo courtesy Dancing With The Stars)

    He’s reached the fourth round of Dancing With The Stars, but will NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip and partner Emma Slater make it to the fifth round?

  10. Jeff Gordon is now just 3 top-10 finishes from tying Mark Martin for second on all-time list

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    (AP Photo/John Raoux) AP

    Jeff Gordon is now just three top-10 finishes away from tying Mark Martin for second most top-10s in a career. And in an ironic twist, Gordon is still seeking his first pole at this Sunday’s race venue, Kansas Motor Speedway.

  11. Honda releases first image of F1 2015 engine, no driver announcement due at Suzuka

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    © Honda © Honda

    More details revealed ahead of Honda’s return to F1 in 2015 with McLaren.

  12. Veteran crew chief Mike Ford named to run NNS team effort for John Wes Townley

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT

    (Jason Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Veteran NASCAR crew chief Mike Ford has joined Athenian Motorsports, the Nationwide Series team announced Wednesday.

  13. Simona de Silvestro’s F1 hopes at risk due to financial problems

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Simona de Silvestro AP

    Sauber confirms that her testing programme has been scrapped due to “financial reasons”.

  14. NASCAR AMERICA: Dale Earnhardt Jr. aims for better results in Chase (VIDEO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Coca-Cola 600 - Practice Getty Images

    “Driver 88″ discusses his performance issues in the Challenger Round with NASCAR AMERICA’s Rick Allen.

  15. NASCAR AMERICA: The strategy of the Contender Round (VIDEO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Federated Auto Parts 400 Getty Images

    How do you prepare for two races and then a free-for-all at Talladega? Rick Allen and Kyle Petty of NASCAR AMERICA discuss.

  16. NASCAR: Nationwide Series crewman suspended for violating substance abuse policy

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    nationwideserieslogo

    Also: Crew chief in same series fined, put on probation for car weight issue from last weekend at Dover.

  17. F1: 3rd-place battle between Williams and Ferrari heads for Suzuka

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen AP

    Williams’ gap on Ferrari for third in the Constructors’ Championship is down to nine points going into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

  18. WATCH LIVE: Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks Contender Round on NASCAR AMERICA

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    AAA 400 - Qualifying Getty Images

    Also coming up today: A closer look at the Contender Round tracks and who’s been successful at them; Joe Gibbs Racing focusing on continued momentum at Kansas; more radio goodness with the Dover Chase edition of “Scan All 43.”

  19. IndyCar Driver Review: Mikhail Aleshin

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    AleshinSunIMS Getty Images

    Sixteenth in the 2014 IndyCar season was rookie Mikhail Aleshin, ever the fighter.

Video from NASCAR America

Dale Jr. not worried about Chase struggles
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1796)
  2. K. Harvick (1469)
  3. K. Busch (1270)
  4. J. Coulter (1139)
  5. R. Blaney (1124)