NASCAR & Auto Racing

NBC Sports leans into NASCAR coverage with move to Charlotte, Dale Jr., new lineup

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After winning 26 times on the NASCAR circuit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring. Here are the highlights of his career as a driver.

NBC Sports, one of NASCAR’s two primary broadcast partners, has moved its NASCAR television programming to Charlotte, the Observer has learned. In conjunction with relocating its shooting hub from Stamford, Conn., to Charlotte, NBC Sports will also be re-branding its entire NASCAR America weekly programming.

The re-branded schedule, which executive producer and president of production Sam Flood called a “next generation” for the network’s highly rated NASCAR shows, will now feature a different show every day of the week, beginning Feb. 11. Every show will be produced out of NBC Sports’ Charlotte studios, which were renovated and expanded late in 2018.

“We have a theory here that if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse,” Flood told the Observer. “The audience now knows what to expect. Our show had tons of great elements, but you weren’t quite sure where everyone was and what the engagements were because we were filling in a schedule with people coming up to Connecticut.

“The show — the control room and all the execution — still comes from Connecticut, but the talent now has one location, which we feel will be a real asset to the show.”

Another key aspect of the network’s re-branding will be the addition of active NASCAR drivers each Wednesday. Flood said NBC Sports already has three drivers signed on for appearances, but are in the process of adding more to create a firmer schedule.

“They won’t be just one-off guests,” Flood said. “They’ll come in from anywhere from 4 to 7 or 8 times across the course of the season, which will give us some real insight into people who have competed in the last race and will be coming again that coming weekend.”

NBC Sports’ new television lineup will be as follows:

Mondays will feature the network’s ‘Race Team’ — Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte, and Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett — breaking down the previous weekend’s race and offering analysis.

Tuesdays will feature an hour-long version of the Dale Jr. Download with 15-time Most Popular Driver and current NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has previously done a weekly podcast — an extended version of that podcast will still be available to fans on Mondays — but the network is also expanding his role based on the immediate success he had as a broadcaster in his inaugural season last year.

Earnhardt’s duties will extend across other NASCAR programming, as well as NBC Sports’ entire gauntlet of sports. Last year, Earnhardt traveled to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis and to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. This year, Earnhardt is expected to contribute to the network’s Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 coverage, too.

“We’re leaning in,” Flood said.

Wednesday shows will now Motormouths, a light-hearted approach to the traditional weekly show, and will be hosted by NBC’s Rutledge Wood, Marty Snider, and former driver Kyle Petty. In addition to active driver appearances, fans will also have the opportunity to call into Motormouths and share their opinions with the show’s hosts.

“We know Kyle has some opinions, and fans have opinions about Kyle,” Flood said, “so why not let them have at it a little bit and have some fun?”

On Thursdays the network will dedicate its hourly programming to the entire world of motorsports at large, not strictly NASCAR. Former NASCAR drivers Parker Kligerman and A.J. Allmendinger will join host Krista Voda to discuss news regarding IndyCar, IMSA, Motocross, and many other forms of racing. Guest analysts will include former IndyCar driver Townsend Bell, former IMSA GT driver Calvin Fish, former IndyCar driver Paul Tracy, and Motocross and Supercross legend Ricky Carmichael.

Lastly, NBC Sports will also begin producing two digital shows, one each on Tuesday and Wednesday, starring lead motorsports writer Nate Ryan.

The economic ramifications of NBC Sports relocating its NASCAR programming to Charlotte are still unknown, but Flood mentioned the studio will look to implement new technology as the season progresses.

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.