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DATE News (chronologically)
07/21/10
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Transcript of NASCAR on ESPN Media Conference Call  Yesterday, ESPN held a media conference call to kick off its coverage of the final 17 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. On the call were lap-by-lap announcer Marty Reid, analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree and ESPN vice president, programming and acquisitions, Julie Sobieski. A transcript of the call follows:.

THE MODERATOR: Marty Reid, after 28 years with the company, calling a lot of Nationwide races, open wheel, drag racing, you’re going to be calling a Sprint Cup race for the first time. What are your thoughts? 

MARTY REID: To be able to do the Indianapolis 500 and now the Brickyard 400 in the same year is pretty special. And to top it off with 16 more races including the Chase is going to be just phenomenal. It will be a great year and looking forward to it.

THE MODERATOR: Before we get to our champions, I'd like to ask Julie Sobieski her thoughts. Often times throughout the season you'll hear people say how excited we must be to get back to NASCAR racing in July. But it seems that we've been at it since January getting ready for the Nationwide Series opener and all the studio programming and ESPN.com coverage. But it all seems to culminate as we have three launches as you will, February, July and of course with the Chase.

JULIE SOBIESKI: Yeah, you're right, we're certainly excited. This is a year-round commitment. ESPN and ABC have NASCAR kicking off in Daytona, and this is really where things start to come together as a team. We'll have coverage across all of our platforms for the Brickyard and throughout the last 17 weeks of the season including the Chase in the Championship.

As most of you know, this year we'll have 14 of our 17 races on ESPN, with our three night races with Bristol, Richmond and Charlotte on ABC and we're excited about that change. And really looking forward to getting back into the Sprint Cup season here this week at what is really an historic track. And at an ideal venue for us to launch our Sprint Cup coverage.

THE MODERATOR: You're very familiar with the bricks, Dale Jarrett, your thoughts on keys to success these days in the Brickyard 400?

DALE JARRETT: It's one of the most difficult racetracks that these drivers and teams will encounter. It's such an historic place that makes everybody put a little more effort into trying to go to Victory Lane and kiss the bricks at the end of the day on Sunday.

It's just a phenomenal place, and I think that's why you see the group and list of drivers and teams that have won this race are literally ones that a lot of times went on to win championships or have won championships in other big races, because that's when you see really the best come to the forefront.

I know in my experiences there, it was a place that I always prepared myself for probably more than any other because of the uniqueness of the racetrack and just figuring out exactly what it was going to take each and every time. It's just a great event and look forward to getting our season started off on Sunday.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, DJ. And Andy Petree, you're no stranger to the Brickyard as well. It's very historic compared to the storied relationships around the country. Many, many memorable moments.

ANDY PETREE: I've got some great memories from the Brickyard having won it in '95 with Dale Earnhardt Sr. as a crew chief. And just like Dale said, this is such a prestigious race and such a big event. The teams really prepare, if you can even call it extra hard, they're preparing hard for every race.

But this one here you always target as bringing your absolute best stuff. You do development all year long on aerodynamics and engines and put it all together in a package. I can't ever remember going to the Brickyard without a brand-new race car and all the best stuff that we had.

It's a very unique racetrack in that it's got four 90‑degree turns and it takes a little different approach from a set‑up point of view. But the prestige of that race is so great. You want to win it so bad that you put a lot of effort in it.

Q: Julie, David Hill mentioned last month his concern about the male, 18‑34 demographic and how FOX'S numbers were down nearly 30% for that network for the NASCAR races from last year. TNT saw a similar dip this season. Can you give me a sense of perspective of how valuable that 18‑34 male group is and why, even though it may not be the largest demo watching NASCAR races?

JULIE SOBIESKI: Sure. Certainly it's an important demographic for advertisers and for growth of the sport. I will say that from last year if you looked back at our numbers in 2009, on ESPN we did see gains in the key 18‑34 demo if you looked at our ESPN coverage over ABC..

It is one good opportunity, we believe, that the move of these day races over to ESPN has on ESPN. Obviously our 18‑34 demos across the networks are very strong, and we think there is an opportunity there on ESPN.

Q: How can that help growth and how do you respond or try to reach that audience knowing that there is a balance between what they want to see and the core fan, which is a typically older fan or maybe the older age group wants to see? Where's that balance and how do you try to meet that?

JULIE SOBIESKI: I think what we talk about is serving the NASCAR fan as a whole, first and foremost. Generally events tend to skew older with the demo perspective than it does for news and information style programs.

ESPN has a ton of events but we have news and information programming that tends to skew to that younger demographic, so there is an opportunity there.

We think if we cover the race and cover the product as we think NASCAR fans in general do, regardless of their specific demographic, that that demographic will continue to climb.

Q: Julie, there's been a lot of talk and speculation that the Nationwide Series schedule might get trimmed a little bit. Do you all have any say in how many races there will be next year? And if there is a change, does that mean that they'd have to change their contract with you?

JULIE SOBIESKI: I can't really get into the specifics. We have a contract for 35 races, and are really happy with having the full season as a franchise on ESPN and ESPN2. If that becomes a conversation that we need to have with NASCAR, it hasn't at this point.

At this point there's been discussion on a number of fronts out there that we've seen and read about. I think we'd all love to see an opportunity for the Nationwide Series to continue to grow and develop. But as far as the number of races right now, there's no indication that there would be less than 35.

Q: For Dale, I was wondering whether you could weigh in on the Edwards and Keselowski situation from Saturday night? If you felt there should be any penalties issued?

DALE JARRETT: I'm sure we can all weigh in and give our opinions. Ultimately it's between the drivers, you know. What we see a lot of times from TV on or if you were there live, look, it's totally different than what actually takes place in the driver compartment.

But certainly looking at it, it looked like Carl could have maybe stepped over the line a little bit right there. It looked to me that Brad gave plenty of racing room and had done his job and gotten himself in a position. But we've seen a lot more aggressive driving Nationwide and in the Cup Series, and I think it's just kind of a product of what our sport has become. And that's not saying right or wrong and it's up to these drivers more to police what is happening between themselves and what NASCAR determines and what they decide to do will be interesting to see.

If I had to guess I would say they'll put Carl on probation or something like that. And make him, you know, think about what he's doing. Maybe he's still on probation from the other one, I don't remember how long that went. But I would say they'll have to weigh in and have a talk with these guys.

Q: Dale, you touched on this earlier about the guy that went to Daytona 500, good chance of going on to win the Championship. I think that's happened seven times. I don't know if there's another track on the circuit that reveals more about the big picture than this race. Why is it that the Brickyard is such a great litmus test for the overall season championship? And then if you'd give me a prediction on Sunday's race?

DALE JARRETT: Oh, wow, prediction. Going to get right into that. I'll leave that. But I think that it goes, and Andy and I can both discuss this from the crew chief and driver's perspective, and Andy touched on it a little bit, of just how unique the racetrack is. We don't see anything else like this as a driver and as a crew chief where you have four distinct corners. And even though they all may look pretty much the same, each of them drives different. You drive into turn one because of the grandstand and what you see there looks totally different than going down the long back straightaway to get into turn three. And as you enter turn two and enter turn four and get back to the throttle and what your car's going to do.

So trying to counter all of those options that you have as a driver and a crew chief of where you want your car to be the best, where you can make up the most time is just a huge challenge. So therefore that's why you see the better teams and the better drivers in each of these years take advantage of those situations and are better at handling those situations, and they end up, if not in Victory Lane, close to the front.

So it's just very difficult. By this time of the year we pretty much know the people that are real contenders and that's who we'll see up front. For my prediction, I think Jimmie Johnson goes to Victory Lane again.

Q: A three peat you think, huh?

DALE JARRETT: He's the man. We didn't think he'd win four championships in a row, so why should I go against him here?

THE MODERATOR: Andy Petree, your thoughts.

ANDY PETREE: I agree with Dale on this. The uniqueness of the track, we already talked about that. One of the things that that particular racetrack does is it puts a premium on every single system on the team. From the aerodynamics to the engine and chassis.

You can go to some of these tracks like a Bristol or Richmond or a short track and really put emphasis on the handling and make the cars as light as possible and trying to make them ‑‑ you know, it's all about handling and horsepower's not that big a deal. You always want to make more.

But you can win those kind of races without having the most horsepower, and maybe the most downforce. But if you go to the Brickyard you place a premium on every single thing. You have to have it all right to be able to win there. I think that's why you see the great teams and drivers win at the Brickyard. You don't see an average team sneak in there and steal one, because you just can't do that. Every single part of that team has to be 100%.

Q: D.J. and Andy, if you could address looking at Juan Pablo Montoya at Indianapolis in general, what do you think makes him so good that no matter what kind of car you put him in, IndyCar, stock car, he always seems to be a factor there? And as a follow-up, could you address how long does it take a guy to get over a race when you give one away the way he did last year?

DALE JARRETT: I think what makes Juan Pablo so good, there are certain drivers that get a feel for a racetrack regardless what you're going to drive there. If you had a go cart or passenger car ‑‑ I didn't win many IROC races, but I did win an IROC race there at Indy. And you just get a feel for what you want to do and what it takes to get the job done.

So I think Montoya has that. And that helps his crew chief a lot because he knows feel that he's looking for and he can give great information. If you haven't done well at other tracks, it makes it difficult to give the feedback to get the car the way you want it. But he's had success there and knows what it takes. When you get the feeling of the track itself, it makes it much simpler.

As far as the amount of time it takes to get over, we were there in 1998 and had the field covered, and we ran ourselves out of gas. I tell you, that stayed with me for a while, but I came back the next year more determined to win that race in 1999. And we brought the same race car back. I'm sure these guys probably have built new stuff that is much better. But I would think that they're going to be there more determined than ever to win this race.

But it does stay with you for a while. But he won't think about what he let get away. He'll think about how he can get to Victory Lane this time.

ANDY PETREE: He is one of those great race car drivers that we talk about. He can win that race because he is a great driver. He's proven it in many series. And I think that certain drivers and a lot of drivers really get up for that race.

I think they come there, and Dale you can speak to this, maybe, you just seem to have a different attitude when you come to that kind of a race. I know Dale Sr. did. The first Brickyard 400, we came there and he was like a different person. He was so focused and determined to win that first race.

We got in the fence right off the bat and kind of messed the car up and didn't end up getting it done. Then the next year the same thing. I didn't even know who he was. He was so focused on winning that thing.

And I think that's the way Montoya's coming into the race. He comes in with that kind of determination, and the teams they feed off of that. So they bring their best stuff and they put a lot of effort into that. I think that's one of the things that makes this event special.

Q: Dale, you were in a golf tournament just up the hill at Lake Tahoe this weekend. How did you do?

DALE JARRETT: Well, that's the best I've done. That was my third year playing in the American Century Championship. I think I ended up in a tie for 18th out of 82 players. So pretty good. Too many double bogies still to get to maximum points. But I had a wonderful time.

Q: As long as you beat Charles Barkley, that's good.

DALE JARRETT: That's not hard to do (laughing).

Q: You talked about Montoya and his feel for the track. Sam Hornish Jr. also had some success there in IndyCars. How do you feel about his chances this weekend?

DALE JARRETT: Well, you'd have to think he's got a reasonable chance. We've seen them be successful on a lot of the flatter racetracks and obviously another driver that we talked about, knowing what the feel is that they're looking for.

Penske is making tremendous horsepower over there, so you would have on to think that all three literally of those drivers in that camp would be good. Kurt Busch has run well there in the past. And we've seen Brad Keselowski run good everywhere.

But as far as Hornish goes, you'd have to think because of his success there that he'll feed off of that and certainly could be a contender.

Q: A general question about how safety in this sport has evolved since you guys got your start in it. Could you compare and contrast advancements over time? Also, kind of a sub note to that, are drivers a little more emboldened when you look at the Keselowski and Edwards incident, given how safe the race cars are and all the advancements that have been made?

ANDY PETREE: I'll go first on that one. You know, we made a big, big jump within the first year or less after Earnhardt's death as far as safety in the race cars. The seats, the harnesses, the head and neck restraints, all of that became really standard of the industry there. Everybody had to wear them.

We learned so much more about how to mount seat belts and seats and got some of the smartest people in the country or in the world, actually, that were helping us to understand all of this. So we took that.
Then the racetracks had become safer and safer. Not just from the safer barriers, though that is the biggest thing. One of the other things had a they've done to these racetracks is paving a lot of areas that were once grass, and a lot of the infield areas are a lot safer than they used to be.

To answer your question I do think the drivers feel a lot more bullet proof in those cars now than they ever did. But I don't think they concentrate or focus on getting hurt anymore. I think they concentrate on just competing and whatever comes with that. I don't think they really think about it.

Although before Dale Earnhardt Senior's death, I think every time they got strapped in, they realized it was a very risky way to make a living.

So I think it changed a lot, and it happened quickly. We still get safer every year, but I think the big gains were made within the first year or so of Earnhardt's death.

DALE JARRETT: I agree. I can't add much to what you said there in terms of all the safety issues NASCAR has taken and put into place. The new car is obviously much safer for the drivers. Even though you don't hear much about it, it's not like they're sitting still now. They're looking at different ways all the time.

They have a great group of people. The manufacturers have stepped in and helped a lot. So you have a lot of people who continue to work in that area too.

The drivers, yeah. I think it factors in. It's not like a situation that you sit there and as you're racing you think I can hit him because he's not going to get hurt. But I think they understand the cars and all the equipment that they have there that helps them survive these impacts and say, you know, I can be a little more aggressive here now. And I think that's exactly what we're seeing.

These guys, it's kind of the nature of our world right now, more aggression, so they're taking that to the racetrack and understanding that more than likely nothing's going to happen. There is always that chance, but I think it gives them a feeling that I can be a little more aggressive here, and that translates to great racing for the fans.

Q: Dale, tell me what the viewer doesn't see that makes Indianapolis so technically difficult maybe more so than the other tracks you visit?

DALE JARRETT: That's a great question. I think that even though we talk about the lack of banking there, that is the biggest thing is with the 3400‑pound stock car, you find your better situations of side‑by‑side racing happening on racetracks that have a lot of banking.

You know, it just makes perfect sense that that's the way that it would be. It's not like there is anything else that makes it that much more difficult.

What they have to watch for and we'll hopefully show is there is great racing that goes on, it's just not the side‑by‑side kind a lot of times because it's difficult with that lack of banking. It doesn't progress as you go up the racetrack any. Everybody's going for that same spot, and if you can take that inside groove away, you'll probably make a pass.

We have seen some side‑by‑side through the corners, and, again, it's just so difficult because you don't have that to lean on as you get on that outside part of the racetrack. But there will be plenty of passing.

I think with the spoilers back on these cars, I think we'll see even more passing than what we've seen there. There are opportunities for these guys to get up underneath the bumper and loosen the guy up without ever touching him because the spoiler puts more drag on these cars. Then that's going to keep them closer getting to the corners if that opportunity is there.

It's just the lack of banking is what creates that situation, but hopefully we'll show them plenty of racing that is going on. From a driver's perspective, there have been people over the years that have talked about that race wasn't very good because they weren't two wide all the way around the racetrack.

From a driver's perspective, you have to work extremely hard. It's very rewarding whenever you can make a pass at a track that is that difficult.

Q: You talk about the side‑by‑side racing, I'm sure you've heard as much as anybody about the fans complaining sometimes and maybe this race is too follow the leader. And Andy, if you want to chime in, please feel free. Can it be a great race if people don't think it's a great race to watch? Does the mystique and the presence and the difficulty of the Brickyard, can that make it a great race even if the action isn't what people are used to seeing?

ANDY PETREE: Yeah, I think so. That is the thing. There is great racing. I really enjoy all kinds of racing. Let's say if every race was like Bristol, we might want something different. And then you've got restrictor plate racing, and this is a whole different animal here.

Like Dale said, with the spoiler on these cars, we'll see a lot more drafting on the straightaways and maybe even a sling shot type pass. That could even be possible.

But, yeah, I love racing. I love road racing. It's the same kind of thing. You don't see them going three wide around road courses, but that is an interesting style of racing, and this is another. It's very unique. The history and the prestige of the event is enough to make it a great race regardless.

But it's also great to watch it because it's very tactical how these drivers have to run it. How they make these passes and how it's tactical for the crews to keep that track position because it is so critical at that track because passing is difficult. It just puts more emphasis on different strategies and that's what I love about it.

DALE JARRETT: I have to agree. Even as you brought in the crews and doing all of that, if everybody could understand what it takes for a driver to set someone up. Because there's only so much space there that is really good grip, then they would understand how difficult making each and every pass is?

Q: Julie, there's been a lot of complaints this year by fans and others about the coverage from TNT and FOX. Does ESPN pay attention to that at all and do you adjust your broadcast accordingly?

JULIE SOBIESKI: We always pay attention to anything the fans have to say. If we feel that what they're talking about at any given point is relative to our coverage and things we can do better, we always learn from that.

One great example this year of something we've been hearing not just this year but in other years is that fans want a more in-depth post race experience around the races.

And one of the opportunity that's these 14 races on ESPN affords us this year uniquely is that we'll be able to have SportsCenter, an expanded SportsCenter, on the back end of those ESPN races. And we'll be able to go back, as we would with most other major sports we have on our network, when SportsCenter is on the back end, to be able to go back to the track and do more in depth post race analysis. We're looking forward to that.

That is definitely in response not only to what we've heard from fans, but it is just an opportunity that we're able to provide on ESPN with the schedule and earlier start times as well.

Q: Andy, you touched a little on Dale Earnhardt and how great he was there winning the Brickyard 400 with you. But we know Dale Earnhardt Sr. was such an awesome driver and champion. But overall what made the No. 3 team so awesome in the mid '90s under your direction?

ANDY PETREE: Well, things just kind of came together there. I took that job in '93, and there were a lot of things going on at Richards Childress racing at that time. The engine department was getting revamped, there was a lot of ‑‑ I obviously brought in different ideas and they were very receptive to them.

Dale and I just clicked so well. Not initially, the first five races we kind of butted heads. We were just maybe a little too much alike or something. But we finally got on the same page there fairly quickly, and then we kind of had a bond. The team itself had a pretty good bond, I mean, everybody. It's kind of like a family.

They brought me into it, and you know, we just clicked. I don't know what to say. It just seemed to be good timing on my part because there were a lot of good things happening there when I came and I was just able to hopefully enhance it a little bit. And having Dale Earnhardt Sr. behind the wheel doesn't hurt. We had the best of everything.

Q: Also just a quick thought of the pit crew and some of those Flying Aces in the late '80s that were still there helping you?

ANDY PETREE: Yeah, the Flying Aces had been broken up by the time I got there because Kirk Shelmerdine was part of that. They were an incredible pit crew. I know we went to competitions. It seemed like every year they were the team to beat.

Then again, the pit stops kind of changed about the early '90s. I think maybe Rusty Wallace's team was the one really pushing it. Where people were practicing and putting athletes on the teams and doing a lot of things. The times on the pit stops were crazy. We put a lot of emphasis on that.

The Brickyard 400 in '95 we actually won on pit road against Rusty Wallace's team. He was leading the race, and we came in under green and were able to beat him out and hold on even though Dale Jarrett was pressing on us hard. But we held them off. It was the pit stop that did it, so we did put a lot of emphasis on the pit crew.

DALE JARRETT: Andy's being very modest there. And I had conversations with Dale Earnhardt during that time. And he gave a huge amount of credit to Andy Petree for coming in at a time when things weren't exactly right at Richard Childress Racing, and making a huge difference in a lot of areas.

He got the respect from a lot of people because of his knowledge of race cars. He was very hard‑nosed at that time and what he was doing in his ability. And Dale had a huge appreciation for what Andy did in coming in there and really turning that around and getting him back on track again.

THE MODERATOR: Marty, can you talk about your first full year working with Andy in the booth and how he's taken the analyst role?

MARTY REID: I think both of them bring so much to the plate it makes my job a lot easier. I know there is not a single question I can't ask these guys whether it's D.J. on a driving point or Andy on a crew chief side, and that's not always been the case. And I won't throw anybody under the bus.

But so far in all of the races that we've done over the past few years and especially leading up to what we're doing, that's really been a great element. It's a confidence factor for me. I know I don't have to tip toe around anything. If there is an issue, we can address it.

Q: At Daytona, Brian France talked about significant changes to the Chase format coming down the pipe. Clearly they're not doing that in a vacuum. They've been talking to drivers and team owners, floating ideas around. As the network that covers the last ten races, I wondered what the level of input that ESPN has in this process, whether you think that the Chase would benefit from significant changes and if so, what things you would like to see?

JULIE SOBIESKI: Sure, NASCAR's done a thorough job of seeking input from all of their stakeholders over the last year on a number of fronts. We saw a lot of the fruits of that this year with the changes they've made, the fundamental changes they've made to the sport.

We as the rights holders to the Chase itself do believe there is a lot of opportunity to be had within the Chase and growth available within that part of our season, and have had communication with NASCAR on that.

Ultimately any changes they make rest in their hands, but we think there is a great opportunity to really increase the ratings within the Chase itself, and increase viewers interest down the wire and through the Championship itself.

Q: Julie, there's been some talk about realignment. What is your stand on say losing a market like L.A., should they take one of the two races away from the Auto Club Speedway?

JULIE SOBIESKI: I think those are really NASCAR and track decisions when it comes to the ratings of the events themselves. There are a few tracks that see a dramatic or significant ratings increase, and we know what those are with Daytona and the Brickyard itself, Talladega being some of the biggest there.

Outside of a few tracks that see a big increase, the remainder of the tracks all offer something different for the fans. Each racetrack delivers something different week in and week out, and ultimately those decisions on which tracks are in and which tracks are out rest with NASCAR and the tracks themselves?

Q: Marty, this is kind of like you've been around for a long time and trying to get a Cup race. What do you think here?

MARTY REID: The truth, I'm living a dream. Years ago, 28 of them to be exact, if you had told me some day I'd be lucky enough to broadcast the Brickyard 400, the Indianapolis 500, the final 10 races of the championship for NASCAR, oh, and along the way get to do drag racing for six years and every other motorsport that I've loved and enjoyed. Because you know me, if it's got wheels and a motor, count me in.

Yeah, I'm living a dream. I've been sitting at my computer. I've got a stack of papers a mile high. We're going to put in just as much work as we do for every other race, but just like the guys have said, this is a special race. So yeah, you want to make sure you have all your I's dotted and your T's crossed. So we're ready to go. Let's wind them up.

Q: Dale, you probably read the round table discussion in the "Sports Illustrated" a couple weeks ago. I think there were five drivers and Greg Biffle addressed the Kasey Kahne crash at Pocono in June where his car almost went over the fence there in the backstretch. You raced there. You know, Greg says they need to do something, put up a fence or something. When you raced there, did you feel that was a safe track or were you worried about your safety and the safety of the other drivers?

DALE JARRETT: I don't think so. As a driver you're always looking at different situations and you encounter those at different times. But I've never looked at that as it being a dangerous situation. You had what you pretty much had there, and you know, will they take a look at it and want to make a change? Yeah, it would be interesting to see. But I don't think there is anything unsafe about the racetrack at all. It's a unique racetrack. Fun racetrack to race on.

You get a unique situation like what occurred there. It makes you look and think of things that probably walking around or riding around there you wouldn't think would be any problem. But as far as unsafe, sometimes you're in a situation and it looks a little different from the driver's seat.

Is it something that needs to be addressed? I'm sure that Greg has spoken to people at NASCAR and the speedway and they'll take a look at it. And if it is a situation that needs to be addressed, they will do that.

Q: You mentioned the amount of work that goes into what you do, and it's probably a lot of fun too, and obviously your attitude toward it and everything. But with all your experience and everything, fans might want to know what gives you the biggest kick when you're broadcasting a race?

MARTY REID: When I get to the end of the broadcast and I look back and we haven't left a story unfinished. In other words, if we introduce something along the way, I really like it when our pit reporters are able to ‑‑ we make the observation in the booth, they put a period on it.

And every now and then you look back at a race and go, Oh, my God, we didn't get this period in on whatever it may be. Some individual who had a problem and we got swept away by something else that happened and we never got back to it. To me that is the most satisfying.

I've always said if I've ever done the perfect show, the perfect event, the perfect broadcast I'm out of here because it's always downhill from there. And here we are in our 29th year, you know. Shows you that we never are perfect, but I keep trying for it.

But that is the greatest satisfaction is when we walk away from a track feeling like any story that we talked about, that we got a period put on it.

THE MODERATOR: What do you enjoy the most about it these days, Dale?

DALE JARRETT: I think the thing that I enjoy the most is the people that I work with. It's fantastic. Everybody does a terrific job, and it's giving me the opportunity to see the sport from a whole different angle and level.

I think that I have even a greater appreciation for when all the people, whether it's the crew chiefs and everybody that works with them, the owners and certainly the drivers what they go through throughout the day, because before I was just looking at and pretty focused on what it took for our team to try to be the best. And now I get to see the efforts it takes from all these people.

NASCAR is a tremendous sport and we have a lot of great stories out there that we'll try to bring to the people in the next 17 weeks. And it's just a lot of fun to still be a part of the sport.

THE MODERATOR: Andy, what about your thoughts?

ANDY PETREE: I was a fan first, and, you know, getting to go all of these races and still, you know, see all of our friends that are there, cover these things from the best seat in the house. It's the easiest job I've ever had. Don't tell my bosses that. Oh, wait a minute. One of them is on the call. Wait, too late.

But anyway, it is a dream job to have. I look forward to every race and just feel very, very fortunate to be part of it.

JULIE SOBIESKI: We're fortunate to have you, Andy.

ANDY PETREE: Okay, Julie (laughing).

Q: Couple years ago there was an absolute tire disaster at the Brickyard, as you recall. Do you anticipate anything in any area that way this year? And if so, how do you handle that?

ANDY PETREE: Goodyear went to work on that problem, and it was a huge issue. It really was. That track as a surface is so unique. The way it wears on tires, I don't know that anybody could fix that problem. But Goodyear went to work on it, and they have done an incredible job.

They actually learned a lot through that experience about how to build a tire that will actually put rubber down into the racetrack, and that creates a better surface for the tire itself.

So you've got to give it to them, because they found something pretty unique there, a challenge that was very hard and they found a way to fix it.

I don't have any doubt that we'll have a great tire for there. I don't think we'll see more of that issue again. And I think we've made racing better than a lot of other tracks because they used some of that technology at other tracks too.

Q: You talked earlier about what you called the aggressive driving and this boys‑have‑at‑it era. Could you give me a sense of perspective? With what you're seeing, was that what is it was like when you raced? Was it more aggressive when you raced? I almost get the sense that some people are thinking it's almost like the wild west out there right now. I don't know if that's the case or how that compares to years ago or a few years back. Could you give me perspective and a better sense of that, please?

DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I think we have to go back a lot more years than when I was driving to get to what we're seeing now. No, it wasn't like that. There was plenty of hard racing in the '80s and '90s and early 2000, and it made for great racing.

The aggressive nature we see these drivers taking now, we'd have to go back to my dad and Junior and Pearson and these people, Curtis Turner, that group. They didn't know any different. There wasn't much of a gentleman's agreement of any type back then. So we have to go back a long way.

I'm not saying this is wrong. This is just the way racing is. I've looked at it and told people if I were still there in a competitive nature, it would take some adjustment on my part in my thinking and the way that I went about things because I always felt that I had to try to race people the way they raced me. What you see now that would be a big change over the way it was when I was driving.

But, again, it's making the sport very exciting. We're seeing some rivalries start up here even between teammates. That's only good things for our fans to keep an eye on.

Q: Julie, you mentioned earlier about the post race show. I know looking at the release, it was sent out earlier, interests more of an extension on that. I know reading the release that Carl Edwards is going to be a standing guest for the 14 cup races on ESPN. If I remember, last year weren't you pretty much cutting into SportsCenter and doing the same things? Or what is more expanded that you're providing in regards to the post race program?

JULIE SOBIESKI: I think there are a couple things there. First with all of the ESPN races, especially with the earlier start times, while we've had SportsCenter on the end of our telecast, this provides us the opportunity to increase our sports coverage.

In some cases that's an hour and 90 minutes to close to three hours on the back end of these telecasts. Having that much time affords us the opportunity to consistently go back to the racetrack and spend time there. We have production that's been working on a list of several specific features and components that we expect to see across SportsCenter that fans can get used to. Carl Edwards being one of the components as a standing guest after each one of our ESPN telecasts.

But this really is an expanded philosophy for us and something we've spent a lot of time on, where it's not just SportsCenter on the back end, but it's expanded and specifically has a component of it that will go back to the racetrack and give us a platform that we can count on week in and week out to tie a bow on the NASCAR coverage in the same way we do other big events.

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