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.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Ron Dennis makes clear that Alonso is locked into his new contract with the British team.
Jan 31, 2015, 1:30 PM EST
Herald Scotland checks in with Dario Franchitti on his new life outside the cockpit.
Jan 31, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
Prepare for round two with Hamilton and Rosberg as they set their goals for the season ahead.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
With a combined age of 37, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. forge the youngest line-up in F1 history in 2015.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:00 PM EST
Patriots or Seahawks? NASCAR’s top drivers make their picks for Sunday’s Big Game.
Jan 31, 2015, 11:30 AM EST
Watch a time lapse video of how the Ferrari SF15-T gets stickered up in advance of the 2015 season.
Jan 31, 2015, 11:21 AM EST
Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. lift the covers from the team’s 2015 car, marking its tenth year in F1.
Jan 31, 2015, 10:30 AM EST
Highlights from the special event featuring NASCAR drivers and former NFL stars.
Jan 31, 2015, 10:00 AM EST
He may have risen rapidly up to a seat at Red Bull, but Daniil Kvyat is not feeling under pressure.
Jan 31, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
All of the information you need for the first official F1 test of the year.
Jan 31, 2015, 8:00 AM EST
Despite the team enjoying a record-breaking year in 2014, Hamilton is confident that Mercedes can extend its advantage in the new season.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:23 AM EST
Wendell Scott’s induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame completed a long journey for his family.
Jan 30, 2015, 10:44 PM EST
Five NASCAR legends achieve the sport’s highest honor.
Jan 30, 2015, 9:30 PM EST
CLICK HERE for stream links to the special event involving former NFL greats and NASCAR drivers.
Jan 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
The son of NASCAR’s first African-American winner of a premier series race talks with NASCAR AMERICA’s Marty Snider about his father’s accomplishments.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:30 PM EST
CLICK HERE for stream links to tonight’s NBCSN coverage of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 Induction Ceremony in Charlotte, N.C.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:15 PM EST
Petty, a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of inductees, speaks with NASCAR AMERICA’s Kelli Stavast before tonight’s Class of 2015 ceremonies.
Jan 30, 2015, 6:00 PM EST
Brasilia cancellation provides the latest chapter in the roller coaster ride that has been IndyCar’s international dalliance.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:05 PM EST
Alex Bowman joins Tommy Baldwin Racing for the 2015 season, replacing Michael Annett, who left for a ride at Scott Motorsports.
Jan 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Coming up today: Live interviews and red carpet arrivals for tonight’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony; a closer look at the careers of all five inductees; Gridiron Challenge preview.
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