"GREAT AMERICAN RACE" CULMINATES
COMPREHENSIVE DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS COVERAGE, BEGINNING FEB. 9
ON NBC AND TNT
NEW YORK (Feb. 7, 2002) -- NBC and TNT drop the green
flag on the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season with
comprehensive coverage of the 44th annual Daytona 500 - the
"Great American Race" - beginning with NBC's coverage of Bud
Pole Qualifying from noon-3 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 9 and
culminating with the network's inaugural broadcast of the
Daytona 500 at noon on Sunday, Feb. 17.
TNT will air the
Budweiser Shootout at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 10; the
Gatorade 125s beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 14;
and on Saturday, Feb. 17, Daytona 500 "Happy Hour" (noon
ET), followed by the NASCAR Busch Series EAS/GNC Live Well
300 (1:00 p.m. ET).
The TNT and NBC
coverage is anchored by play-by-play announcer Allen
Bestwick; analysts Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach; and
pre-race host/lead pit reporter Bill Weber. Pit reporters
Dave Burns, Marty Snider and Matt Yocum complete the team.
Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon: The
Drivers to Beat
Parsons, the 1975
Daytona 500 champion, believes Jeff Gordon, who last year
won his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup championship, and Dale
Earnhardt Jr., are the drivers to beat. "Based on the first
six days of practice (during January testing), Chevrolet had
seven of the top 10 cars. That bodes well for Dale Jr. and
the DEI team and Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports.
Plus, since it's Daytona, you know how badly they want to
"Daytona is the
place. Winning there means more. I've been talking to a
lot of drivers and when they talk about the special moments
of their careers, they're usually talking about special
moments they've had at Daytona. They first raced (at
Daytona International Speedway) in 1959. Ever since, race
car drivers have been asking each other, `how'd you run at
the beach?' They've built some great tracks since then, but
none have reached the acclaim of Daytona."
restrictor plate racing is always a hot topic at Daytona.
"Restrictor plate racing is fun," Dallenbach said. "You're
wheel-to-wheel in traffic with the best drivers in the
world. I think that's fun. That's the nature of the beast
thinks the depth of the Hendrick Motorsports team could give
Gordon an edge. "If Dale Jr. and the Hendrick team run half
as well as they did in practice, those are going to be the
guys to beat. Hendrick has the depth. If you have two
teammates who are as strong as you, they're going to gang up
on everybody, which will obviously help Gordon."
Parsons looks for a
strategic race. "The new (aerodynamic) rules are going to
make it more of a strategic race. The drivers are going to
have to some how, some way, stay up front. You just can't
give up track position at Daytona, so there's a lot of
"The late rules
changes will help the Fords run faster, so practice at
Daytona will be extremely important. Crew chiefs are going
to have to determine how long they can run on tires that are
200 miles old, for example. Gas only...right side
tires...left side tires, all of those types of decisions
will be made in practice."
anticipates unpredictability this year. "Nobody really
knows what's going to happen. The NASCAR Busch race will be
a good indicator. Some drivers will be really happy and
others really mad."
This year's Daytona
500 features a record payoff of at least $1,327,030 to the
winner. The total prize money will exceed $12 million, an
increase of more than $1 million over last year's purse.
Dallenbach: Olympic bobsled run
like "a quick lap at Bristol"
NBC's Daytona 500
pre-race show at noon ET, hosted by Weber, will include live
interviews with as many as eight drivers, including Tony
Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. In addition,
Weber will contribute a segment chronicling his recent
scuba-diving trip with Gordon ("Viewers will see a different
side of Jeff Gordon," Weber said) and Wally Dallenbach
experienced first-hand the thrills of the Olympic bobsled
run at Utah Olympic Park. "You could say our talent entered
the danger zone for this pre-race show," said Sam Flood,
Producer of NASCAR on NBC/TNT, who is also considering
asking pit reporter Dave Burns to ride a street luge to
demonstrate just how steep the 31-degree banking is at
"The Olympic bobsled
run is the ultimate roller coaster ride," said Dallenbach,
who visited Salt Lake City in late January. "They stick so
good and corner so tight. It's more like an Indy car, but a
quick lap at Bristol gives the same sensation. My first
thought was, this is slow, but by the time we came through
the second corner, we were whistling. The first time you
hit one of those 90-degree banking corners, your Adam's
apple goes through your seat. It was really a blast. I
highly recommend it."
NBC's coverage of
the Daytona 500 will be heavily promoted during the
network's coverage of the Salt Lake Winter Games (Feb. 8-24)
and NBA All-Star Game (Feb. 10).
"Earnhardt will always be the
racer at Daytona"
Dallenbach agree the absence of Dale Earnhardt at the
Daytona 500 will be unusual. "It's going to be different
when they throw the green flag and that black No. 3 car is
not on the racetrack," Parsons said. "Once the racing is
underway, though, I think the fans at Daytona and the
viewers at home will turn their attention to the racing."
Dallenbach: "His absence will
be on everybody's mind. It's a big void that you can't
fill. I don't care how many races anybody else wins.
Earnhardt will always be the racer at Daytona."
In fact, Dallenbach,
who began racing at Daytona International Speedway in 1983,
says his favorite memory there involves Earnhardt. "I was
a rookie taking it all in. We were all lined up on the
racetrack to go out in practice. Next to me is the black
No. 3 car. Dale is sitting there, looking cool. He gave me
the Earnhardt look - the Intimidator look. I gave him the
finger. I didn't know how he'd react - he cracked up. We
became friends and `exchanged gestures,' so to speak, at the
racetrack each week. He was always great to me."
"We want to honor the race"
NBC and TNT NASCAR
Producer Sam Flood and Director Mike Wells have a production
arsenal at their disposal that includes 68 cameras,
including in-car cameras in 10 cars. NBC will deploy eight
unmanned robotic cameras, including one mounted on the fence
in each of the four turns. Those robotic cameras pan as the
cars race by, providing "speed shots."
"We want to honor
the race," Flood said. "It's not about toys and bells and
whistles. It's about telling the story of the Great
American Race. We'll have all the power and technology
prepared and refined for Daytona, but that's not what the
race is about.
"We want to give you
the best seat in the house and take you inside. Our goal is
that when we hit the air with qualifying on Feb. 9, the
Daytona 500 has begun. We're going to push one total
package. As far as we're concerned, the Budweiser Shootout
is the first race of the season, not a specialty race. The
same goes for the two 125-mile qualifying races on
Valentine's Day and the NASCAR Busch race."
Daytona qualifying and Budweiser
Shootout covered by NBC and TNT
On Saturday, Feb. 9 at noon NBC
airs coverage of Bud Pole Qualifying, with the two fastest
cars getting locked into the starting grid at the pole and
outside pole positions for the Daytona 500.
TNT kicks off its
season on Sunday, Feb. 10, with pre-race coverage of the
23rd annual Budweiser Shootout at 1:30 p.m. ET. The race, a
70-lap, 175-mile showdown of last year's pole winners and
past Budweiser Shootout winners, airs at 2 p.m. ET. Tony
Stewart, last year's Budweiser Shootout winner, Gordon,
Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett are among the record field of
22 drivers. The Budweiser Shootout pre-race show will
include a feature examining the impact of "new school"
drivers, including Stewart, Harvick and Earnhardt Jr., and
takes a look at "old school" veterans, such as Jarrett,
Terry Labonte and Mark Martin.
on TNT on Thursday, Feb. 14, at 1 p.m. ET with the Gatorade
125s. Drivers who qualified on Feb. 9 in odd-numbered
positions during Bud Pole Qualifying, compete in the first
125-mile race. Drivers who qualified in even-numbered
positions battle in the second. The top 14 finishers in
each 125-mile race (with the exceptions of the
already-qualified pole winner and outside pole winner) earn
positions 3-30 on the starting grid. The rest of the 43-car
field is filled based on qualifying speeds and car owner
TNT's coverage continues with
the Daytona 500's "Happy Hour" on Saturday, Feb. 16, at
noon, followed by the start of the NASCAR Busch Series
season with the EAS/GNC Live Well 300 at 1 p.m. ET
"One of the biggest success
stories in sports"
NBC and TNT head into the second
year of their NASCAR partnership off the runaway success of
2001, when ratings increased by 34 percent over the
comparable races the year before.
"While we don't expect ratings
to increase by 34 percent again, last year proved that not
only is there a core audience for NASCAR but, more
important, that audience is growing and becoming more
diverse," said Ken Schanzer, President, NBC Sports. "Last
year's performance exceeded every one of our expectations
and projections. Beginning with Daytona, we look forward to
bringing this great sport to even more new fans all across
Mark Lazarus, President of
Turner Sports, said, "NASCAR's robust growth in 2001 was one
of the biggest success stories of the year in televised
sports and we were delighted to be a part of it through our
broadcasts and through NASCAR.com. We envision continued
growth unrivaled by any other major sport in 2002, and are
looking forward to continuing to provide NASCAR's growing
allegiance of fans with unique opportunities to get as close
to the action as possible without getting behind the wheel."
Paul Brooks, vice president of
broadcasting for NASCAR, said, "The 2001 season marked the
first time that NASCAR's broadcast partners embraced our
sport and its drivers, teams and tracks as a national
franchise. In 2002 NBC and TNT will bring the thrills and
excitement of NASCAR to a bigger audience than ever before.
We appreciate their investment in production and promotion,
as well as their unique ability to bring to both new fans
and core fans the incredible racing, drama, and excitement