NASCAR on NBC 2.0 begins in 2015 as they take over the second half of the season from ESPN. Already, NBC has named two fresh faces to call NASCAR Cup races in 2015 – play by play man Rick Allen moves over from Fox's truck series coverage and Jeff Burton moves from the driver's seat to the analyst's chair.
Ever since Fox joined together Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and Larry McReynolds the blueprint for a NASCAR booth has been one play by play man, one driver, and one crew chief. NBC will go the same route and in a surprising turn of events, has named Steve Letarte of Hendrick Motorsports as a race analyst. Here's the relevant quotes and announcement from NBC…
“I’ve always been impressed with Steve Letarte’s interviews, and feel smarter after hearing him break down the crucial elements of each race,” said Flood. “It wasn’t long into our first meeting about this potential role on our broadcast team when I realized that Steve is going to be ‘Must See TV.’”
Letarte will join fellow analyst Jeff Burton and race announcer Rick Allen across NBC Sports Group’s exclusive coverage of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series action on NBC and NBCSN, which includes races, pre- and post-race shows, qualifying, and studio programming.
“As soon as I met with Sam Flood and his team at NBC Sports it became obvious to me how excited they are to be covering NASCAR in 2015 and beyond. Their excitement, along with my love for racing, solidified my decision to move away from the pit box and into the broadcast booth,” said Letarte. “I want to thank Rick Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for the opportunities they have given me over the last 18 years, and I want to reaffirm my commitment to Dale Jr. and the entire 88 team to go win races and challenge for the championship in 2014.”
It's quite the coup for NBC as Letarte currently serves as the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and will continue in that capacity for the 2014 season before moving to NBC in 2015. NBC must have made quite the pitch to Letarte to get him to walk away from the Hendrick powerhouse and Earnhardt Jr.'s team at just 34 years old. It's not something I can recall seeing in the industry before. Imagine Mike Tomlin announcing that he would be leaving the Steelers at the end of next season to join the NFL on CBS. Although he won't have a full-time ride this season, Burton will also move from the track directly to the broadcast booth as he's scheduled to drive some races for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Allen, Burton and Letarte will give NBC's NASCAR coverage a freshness that it didn't have during its first run with the sport in the early 2000s. Additionally, having a driver and crew chief move directly from competition to the booth is a great advantage for NBC in giving the network a contemporary voice. Many times some of the best and most relevant analysis in sports comes from people who have just been there.
The chemistry of the trio will have to be established over time, but right now NBC has to be encouraged with the team their building for the network's return to NASCAR.