Nov. 17, 2015
Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and Executive Producer Sam Flood previewed upcoming title coverage from Homestead-Miami Speedway.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone, for joining us today as we prepare for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series championships. In a culmination of NBC Sports group’s first year back as the home of NASCAR’s championship run.
Multiple NBC Sports press releases are in operation that detail nearly 27 hours of coverage that will unfold over the coming weekend in Miami, including the NBCSN Hot Pass offering that will complement the primary broadcast on NBC and focus on the championship four drivers throughout Sunday’s race.
Weekend coverage is obviously highlighted by a live presentation of the Ford EcoBoost 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship on Saturday afternoon. Coverage of that event begins at 2:30 p.m. eastern on NBC.
Then on Sunday NBC presents the main event of the weekend as the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is waged in front of a packed house in Miami Homestead at the Ford EcoBoost 400. Pre race coverage on Sunday begins at 1:30 p.m. eastern, again on NBC.
If you did not receive any of the aforementioned press releases, all NASCAR NBC materials can be immediately accessed and downloaded from http://www.NBCSportsGroupPressbox.com. Our pressbox site will also have a transcript of this call available later this afternoon. In a quick related programming note for our colleagues in NBC’s entertainment division, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will all be guests on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon this evening, so keep an eye out for that. The Tonight Show airs at 11:30 p.m. eastern, 10:30 central.
With us today on this call is the executive producer of NBC Sports and NBCSN, Mr. Sam Flood. We also have NBC Sports NASCAR analyst Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte, Kyle Petty, and Dale Jarrett. And before we open up the call for questions, Sam is going to give us some opening remarks.
SAM FLOOD: Thank you all for joining in. We can’t wait to get to sunny Florida, at least it’ll hopefully be sunnier than Arizona was this past weekend.
Really happy with the first year of coverage from the new team at NBC, particularly the on air group with an all new booth and pre race gang working together through many long days and very successful coverage. It’s an exciting sport to be a part of, and it’s very unpredictable as we realize from last weekend when the group was on the air essentially from 1:00 in the afternoon until after midnight, well after midnight, and it’s part of the amazing love and passion the fans have for the sport that they stick with it and watch all kinds of coverage, rain fill for six consecutive hours with people tuning in and being a part of it. There’s an incredible passion and loyalty to this audience, and we hope we’ve honored them this first year with this team, fresh from the car with Jeff Burton and fresh from the pit box with Steve, and then Kyle and Dale with their tremendous perspective on everything that’s going on.
So we’re real happy with how things started this year. We’ve had the most successful third quarter in the history of NBC Sports Network, and the fourth quarter is on the way to be at that same high level. So we’re excited about that, and now as the home of motorsports, crowning champions in IndyCar, Formula 1, and NASCAR, with both lead series in NASCAR, we are the one stop shopping for NASCAR champions to be crowned, and we get to crown two more this weekend. So that’s exciting.
Obviously we’ve got a great plan for the weekend with our crew already on the ground in Miami, and the NBCSN Hot Pass over on NBCSN will be wonderful complementary coverage to the NBC show and give people a chance to watch the four championship drivers with a different take on it, so we’ll tie it all together to make it a must see Sunday and Saturday of racing.
With that, I turn it over to the team. Let’s start with Mr. Burton because he’s the mayor.
JEFF BURTON: Well, Sam, it is going to be exciting. I mean, I can only imagine those four drivers going into this race. I was never in that situation where you go and you’ve worked all year long and now it all boils down to one race; it’s you and three others. You don’t have to just beat the one guy, you have to beat three guys and you have to race everyone else on the racetrack, and we’ve seen over the last well, the whole history of NASCAR, you just never know what’s going to happen. You go into a race with a plan and something happens and now you have to change that plan. You can only imagine the pressure that’s on the crew chiefs, the pit crew members, the drivers. It’s going to be fun to watch.
What I’ve learned about sports, I’m a huge sports fan, is the more stressful it is for the competitors, the more fun it is for us as fans to watch. I think this weekend is going to be a tremendous amount of fun for everybody that’s watching and going to be extremely stressful for those that are involved.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, if you could go next and then Dale and Kyle just with some opening remarks on what you’re looking forward to this weekend.
STEVE LETARTE: Well, I think Jeff and Sam definitely said it the best. This is a unique opportunity. It’s only the second year with this Chase format, and last year we saw really an epic battle with four teams that came down to needing to win the race at Miami, and when I look at the four contenders this year, I don’t see how it could be any different. We have a four time champion, we have the defending champion, a single car team from Colorado, a superstar coming back from major injury. I think we have four great story lines and four competitors that are all very deserving to be here.
When you look at their statistics from Homestead Miami, it would really shock me if it doesn’t take a win to win this championship.
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it’s hard to add on what was said there, but you’ve got a great venue and a great racetrack that is going to host this, and I think what it allows for is outstanding race, and we’ve seen that over the years, and you go back to the battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards and Tony having to win the race and beat Carl there, you go back to last year, Ryan Newman trying to get his first victory of the season and become the champion in the final race, but Kevin Harvick able to outdo him at the end, and I don’t expect anything less.
The one thing that I think really intrigues me as I was looking over stuff, and Kyle, this is for you, for stats and numbers, but yeah, we’ve had seven different winners in the nine Chase races, obviously Logano winning his three in a row. But that opportunity is there that the champion is going to have to perform at such a high level because there’s so many involved in the uniqueness of our sport, letting everyone else continue to participate in the championship race, and so it could be interesting to see who gets in and in the middle of that mix and in what way is that.
Really looking forward to the weekend. Should be outstanding both Saturday and Sunday.
KYLE PETTY: I guess you guys covered everything, but stone crabs, tiki bars and beer, and I’m looking forward to all of those things. I will say that.
But at the same time, and Dale, you are exactly right. The stat thing, I love stats because of this. We’re going to Homestead with four incredible drivers, four great teams, four I mean, just tantalizing stories when you look at it. Even Kyle Busch brought up the story lines after the race on Sunday. I mean, the other competitors know each other’s story and what it would mean to each one of them individually to be able to go there and win. But I think we saw it last year with Ryan Newman. I mean, we talked about it all year. He never won a race, never won a race, how can he be competitive. And when we look back on last year’s Chase and we look back on the rundown, we’ll see that Ryan Newman finished second in points, second in points to Kevin Harvick, and that’s a huge statement.
So I think you have to throw those stats sometimes out the window because we can’t measure their desire and their heart and the intensity and the focus that each competitor and each crew member and each team bring to this one event, this one thing that we do called the Chase to try to leave there with a championship.
I think just as last year, we saw a fantastic show. I think this year it might be a little bit more intense because or it might be a little bit better because of the four guys that we have going at it.
Good afternoon, gentlemen. I was going to ask about, I remember the first time Denny Hamlin was in the Chase. He was a bit wide eyed by the whole experience down there in Florida. Do you see any of these guys being in that situation? They’re all Harvick is the defending champion, et cetera; these guys are experienced. Will that be a factor this year at all, being nervous and jittery?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think it’ll be a factor for everyone. I think some will hide it better than others. I think if you go back and listen to Kevin Harvick from last year, even though he was the one on the stage Thursday afternoon, kind of pushing buttons, but if you go back and listen to his interviews, he talks about how nervous he was and how gut wrenching it was.
He did a better job of hiding it than everybody else, but if you’re not nervous, something’s wrong with you. How you handle that nervousness is really important.
One that I think about is Martin Truex Jr. He’s never really been in this situation. He’s won two XFINITY championships, but that’s a completely different situation than winning a Cup championship, and Dale Jarrett, he won a Cup championship, and I think he can speak to when you spend your whole life trying to do something and it means so much to you, when you have that opportunity, it is a nerve racking experience.
Kyle, I’m working on a story on some things that Gordon has done off the track, and one of the things he’s done is host Saturday Night Live. I was curious what did the other drivers think, what did you think when he was going to host that? Did you think it was a good idea? Did you think it was a bad idea? Did you think he would be any good?
KYLE PETTY: Did I think he would be any good? Yeah, I thought he would be good, and I think you’ve got to go back to me, to me, and this is because I grew up on Saturday Night Live. Are you kidding me? John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Gilda Radner, when it was in its wild and crazy days, and I loved that show. To me, that was, and for my generation or generations younger, that was a huge moment for the sport. That wasn’t Jeff Gordon hosting some other show. That was the cultural icon, Saturday Night Live. That was what all the cool kids watched. That’s where all the cool bands played. That’s where all the cutting edge comedy was. So for me, for him to be on that, that was a huge moment, a huge moment. I think some drivers understood it, and some people in the sport understood it, and some people never got it. You know, why would Jeff do that? Why would he go and do a skit? Why would he do the monologue, put himself in a place like that? That’s the whole point of that is to do things and expand those boundaries and stretch those boundaries.
We talk about Jeff stretching the boundaries of the sport in so many ways. I thought that was as big a moment for Jeff Gordon and for our sport as any that he ever had.
Are you surprised that nobody has done it since? I don’t want you to speak for the people above you there, but how many drivers do you think could do it if asked and pull it off?
KYLE PETTY: You know, I will say this: I think a lot of drivers I think there’s drivers that could do it. I’m not going to say a lot. But I do believe there’s drivers that could do it.
You know, I think there’s man, you get into that we move into that different era of the sport where all drivers walk and talk and say the same things, and you want them to step outside of that mold but they almost can’t because the corporate dollars won’t let them. So can Jeff Gordon go on or can a Jimmie Johnson or can a Denny Hamlin or can a Martin Truex go on and do Saturday Night Live now and do a skit that’s a little borderline and not have it have some kind of ramifications back? I think when you look at stuff like that, you’ve got to they force you to come back into the mainstream.
I don’t see any of our drivers right now stepping out that far.
Steve, I’m curious, what was the feeling inside Hendrick Motorsports when Jeff was hosting?
STEVE LETARTE: To be honest, you know, when we were there and he announced to us, hey, I’m going to go do Saturday Night Live, it was a little beyond us because we looked at Jeff Gordon as purely a race car driver and no more, and to see him on such a big stage, much like Kyle said, that show, it is a major event, really, in culture, and that’s what teaches you as all of us have learned so much from it. So us racers, we couldn’t believe he was going to be on it, and then when he came back from it, we wanted all the stories because he had done such a great job. It was a lot of fun to watch.
Sam, I’m interested in this NBCSN Hot Pass that you guys are doing. Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to do this approach this year and a little bit about how this is going to affect your production?
SAM FLOOD: We’re doing it this year because it’s the first year we’re back in NASCAR since 2006 and it’s a great opportunity to showcase the four drivers that are fighting for the championship. So it’ll be a multi screen experience where all four of the contending drivers will be available in one of the boxes on the screen so you can watch those four drivers the entire time, plus a composite race feed, so you’ll see the race, as well.
That’s going to give you the opportunity to follow these drivers if you want, and you also have the option of obviously watching the primary coverage on NBC, which will be the more traditional coverage, although it’ll be paying close attention to the four guys that can win the title.
And how is this going to affect your production, the guys in the truck? How is it going to affect them?
SAM FLOOD: Not at all. We’re feeding this out of a second unit. We have Rich O’Connor coming in to oversee it who runs all the rest of our motorsports other than NASCAR, so he’ll execute this, and Leigh Diffey and Dale will be up in the booth making sense of the chaos that’s going on on the track.
I wanted to comment briefly on the six hour delay last week. It was really actually enjoyable. I watched the entire thing and enjoyed it, so that was my first question regarding a situation like that. How many hours of pre scripted stuff do you come into a broadcast with and how much of that is ad libbed?
SAM FLOOD: I’ll say from the production side that there’s nothing scripted for these guys. They’re rocking and rolling and they’re just transitioning between elements that are available.
There’s an hour and a half pregame pre race show that was planned, and from that point on, it was, here’s a good idea, let’s try this next. And when you have talent like this group, they can certainly go on forever, and then you add to it a group of drivers who understand the partnership with television and making themselves available throughout this rain delay. That’s why NASCAR is such a remarkable sport, to have drivers that take the time to have conversations throughout that long, long, long rain fill, because they know this audience loves to hear from them and loves to engage with the stars of the sport, and it’s a real tip of the cap to the culture of NASCAR that allows this to happen. I can’t see it in any other sport, but NASCAR, the drivers get it, and that’s the biggest compliment you can throw at the sport and the leadership of NASCAR that allows this to happen and allows it to be that entertaining and have that many people pay attention to it for that long.
Why do you think they can pull that off? Is this just the authenticity of the drivers?
SAM FLOOD: I think it’s the drivers’ relationship with the fans. I think Jeff and the rest of the group can speak to that, but from the broadcast point of view and the NASCAR NBC partnership, we saw back when we were in the sport from ’01 to ’06 that when weather came the drivers were able to be a part of show and we’d get two and three ratings for people talking about a race that isn’t happening because it’s raining. It’s remarkable.
JEFF BURTON: Yeah, there’s a culture within NASCAR, and when you’re a young driver and you enter the NASCAR ranks, you immediately know without anyone telling you what is expected of you because the people that preceded you conducted themselves in a certain way, so there is an expectation, and it becomes very normal for you to do TV interviews during rain delays and go visit with fans. That’s just the culture.
It’s really one of the things that separates the sport, and without that driver interaction, crew chief interaction, crew members interaction, they’re accustomed to having cameras around them all the time and reporters around them all the time, and truly, I mean, they’re extremely accessible, and I think that’s what really makes it work.
And then the other thing, most you think about it, most sports on TV, they don’t rain fill for they go to something else. It presents a little bit of a challenge for us, but basically we just get to talk about what we like talking about anyway. We all have a passion for the sport, and it gives us a chance to talk more about it than we normally have.
KYLE PETTY: It’s called driver code, Jeff.
JEFF BURTON: That’s pretty much the same for all of them?
KYLE PETTY: That’s the one part of the code that we all understood, yes, that that’s universal for everybody, I think. And I think it says a lot about our fans. The drivers understand it because of the fan base that we have. So many of our fans plan their Sunday afternoons, Saturday nights, around these events, and they understand and our sport is different because we don’t in certain compete on wet surfaces because that’s not the way you’re going to get the best performance and the best racing, so they’re going to be there watching and anticipating when that may happen. They want to be there when it does start. So the drivers and teams understand that, so they’re willing to give of their team, and they’re really the ones yeah, we can sit and talk, and we did a lot of that from Daytona all the way to Phoenix last weekend, but really the drivers taking the time to be a part of it is really what makes it all successful.
Just in regards to the actual race coming up this weekend, Martin Truex, how many of you guys saw this coming, and are you all going to act like you did if he wins?
JEFF BURTON: Well, yeah, the second part of the answer is yes.
You have to, right?
JEFF BURTON: I don’t think anybody saw this coming in February. I think that when it got into August and September, I think then they convinced us all that they could do it, but if you I would ask how many people when they filled out their it’s in February, you could fill out your Final Four, what percentage of people picked Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, I would say that was in the low single digits.
You think about the year they had prior to this year they have two wins, right? Two wins, and Martin Truex has three. We’re talking about those are career numbers, and one of those wins came for Truex came this year and of course one for Furniture Row came this year. So coming into the year, two wins for Truex and one win for the team.
So I don’t know that anybody saw this coming.
DALE JARRETT: As Jeff pointed out there, if you would have started your bracket before Daytona started and you looked back and you saw that the 78 car and Martin Truex led one lap in 2014, were you going to even consider putting them in your top 16? They had done nothing. Now they’re bringing on a rookie crew chief in Cole Pearn, and we know Martin Truex is a very capable driver, but is this team based in Denver, Colorado, going to be able to compete and get themselves in that. So you might give them the benefit that they have a good driver and they have performed at a good level at times, but coming off a terrible 2014, yeah, you might have put them in there at the 15th or 16th slot just because you didn’t want to put somebody else there. But after they finished in the top 10 in 14 of the 15 races this year, then you had to open your eyes and say, hey, this is a team that’s capable. Can they continue this run and get through and win when we got up to race 26 and we saw that they were a very viable team, then you had to start giving them consideration, but to say that I put them in my Final Four, no, but I will be more than happy to say congratulations, great job done, if he’s able to beat the other three Sunday afternoon.
Steve or Kyle?
KYLE PETTY: Yeah, I have to be honest. I had him out in the first round. I’ve eaten a lot of crow with both of these guys because I had a lot of people, the 24 car out in my first round. I think the thing is, and Burton, Jeff said it best. I think if you drove a Hendrick car or a Penske car or a Gibbs car, you’ve got nothing to prove. You know those teams can get there. I think when you look at those drivers, you know those drivers have been there before and have done it.
I think Martin had to prove again that he could get back there, so why he had to prove to us and to the fan base that he could get back to that final form, and then he had a team and a brand new team and a crew chief, like Dale said, they’ve got something to prove, too. You don’t look at a team when you’re picking your brackets just say, okay, here’s a team that’s got to prove everything in every category straight across the board making it to the finals, but obviously they did.
STEVE LETARTE: Yeah, I think the 78 this year is the reason we all love sports, and especially motorsports because there are no foregone conclusions. They don’t exist. As soon as you assume a team can or cannot do it you’ll be wrong. We’ve seen Jimmie Johnson knocked out in the first round and a one car team with one win in the final, and both were deserving of that. It’s unfortunate that Jimmie is not around, but they had a mistake. The 78 has been able to avoid them or recover from them when they did exist.
No, the 78 expectations were definitely higher than they were last year, but there’s no way I think anybody expected them to be as good except for maybe themselves, and maybe that was the key because when you listen to Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr. it sounds like they believed at the beginning of the year that they had a chance to make Homestead, and that’s in sports sometimes all it takes. If a group, if they believe themselves more than anyone else can, I still think that’s the great story moving forward, and I’m not sure anybody is even picking them yet.
They’ve been the underdog all season. I think they’re embracing being the underdog heading into Miami.
I was wondering if you guys could comment on the track itself and who you think of the four championship drivers is best suited for the track and why.
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think that I’m going to lean back to the previous question about Martin Truex Jr. I mean, Kevin Harvick last year obviously proved that he’s very good at this racetrack, but this racetrack has all the tendencies of Martin Truex Jr. having a big day, and the reason I say that is because this is a track that has progressive banking, meaning the top of the track has more banking than the bottom of the track, and Martin Truex is in my eyes one of the top drivers in the sport when is it comes to running the top groove, and I think that falls into his strength, and it falls in by the way, it falls into the strength of this team. Their mile and a half program has been really, really good this year. It’s been the strength of their program.
Although I consider him an underdog, because of the track, I think he has to be considered one of the favorites in a weird kind of way, to say that the underdog is one of the favorites, and it’s because of the track.
You know, in other sports there’s match ups. You may have a team that plays eight other teams and beats seven of them, and the other team can only beat four, but when you get the right match up where you’re strong and they’re weak, then you can pull the upset off. And this track has some of that in my opinion that I think Martin Truex can execute at a place where I think he is has potential to be very, very strong.
You know, to me it’s a match up type scenario.
KYLE PETTY: Yeah, I mean, the track lends itself to everybody in this group having a good day. Jeff made great points there about Truex, and I’m sure that if he could pick a place, this would be exactly where he would want to go try to win a championship. It’s a racetrack, so you have to make Kevin Harvick the favorite because he’s been strong at every single type of racetrack, and he relishes the opportunity just to go show the speed that his car has. I think that this is a momentum track, and when you talk momentum, I think of Kyle Busch immediately, and I think that the less horsepower, the less downforce that the cars have, even though they still make a lot of them, we’ll have a lot less next year, I think all of that plays into his hand because he’s been so successful in the XFINITY cars over the years with the less horsepower. So you have to put him there.
So you look at it, it’s strong for everybody, and I’m going to put Gordon there just because of big game players step up when the time is there, and Jeff Gordon likes this racetrack. He’s said a number of times how much he enjoys racing here, and yeah, I’m a believer that good things happen to good people, and there’s no better person that’s come through this sport and more deserving to go out a winner and a champion.
If you guys were betting, would you say that one of those four would win the race, or do you think there’s somebody else out there that you have your money on if you were just picking the winner?
KYLE PETTY: I think they’re going to have to win. But if one person is going to stop that from winning, I think it’s going to be Joey Logano with a real point to prove to end his season.
STEVE LETARTE: Yeah, and I’ll go as far as saying if you want to give me the four final runners for the championship and you can take the field, I’d feel really good about my bet because I feel like those four drivers are approaching this race unlike they do the first 35 races, which is they are all approaching this, when I was listening to interviews, as a must win, and while we know that isn’t mathematically the case, I think that’s the safest bet is to go down there assuming you have to win, because if you win, nobody else can do anything to change your outcome. You’re setting your own outcome. You’re winning the championship by winning the race.
JEFF BURTON: I think that every team understands if they win, they’re the champion, and I think much like Steve said, there’s more on the line for them, and no matter how much you want to say that we go and give 100 percent every single race, the more that’s on the line, the more you try to give 100 percent, the more you try to dig deep, and I think that advantages the four guys.
KYLE PETTY: Yeah, and I will go back to Sunday. At one time, seven of the Chasers were in the top nine or ten. When we go back to last year at Homestead, the four Chasers, the four guys contending for the Chase, ran in the top four or five almost all day long. So they know what’s on the line, and they put it out there on the line when you get to Homestead.
DALE JARRETT: And while we’re making picks, I’m going to pick Kyle Petty to be the next one to do Saturday Night Live because he can talk, he can sing, and he’s funny.
KYLE PETTY: But he can’t dance.
DALE JARRETT: But he can’t dance.
Dale, Kyle and Jeff, if I could, Gordon got a third of his career wins in a three year stretch where he went 10, 10 and 13. As his fellow competitors at that time, just how depressing was that for the competition to try to overcome that stuff? Just how really good was that team during that stretch?
DALE JARRETT: You just rattled off the numbers. That’s how good he was. You know what I mean? It’s like they did no wrong. They did no wrong, and I think we’ve seen if you go back, and I’ll address this first, when my dad raced through the ’60s, there were years, you look at those years and you think, oh, my God, how did they do that. They just could do no wrong against the competition, against the competition that was being put on the racetrack during that period of time. Just everything fell their way.
You know, my dad has told me stories that in the race, win the thing, take the valve cover off and valve spring fell out of the thing. But for some reason they held off just long enough to win the race, and that’s the way it was. And Jeff and those guys were just that good and they were in that place. But it was incredibly disheartening in a lot of ways to bring your best stuff and always come up short during that period.
KYLE PETTY: Yeah, I guess it would be kind of like the guys that went through the NBA at the time when they played either against Bill Russell or Michael Jordan. That’s kind of bad timing, and as outstanding I can say my career was for me in looking back on it, I finally got to a point that on a lot of times I could race Dale Earnhardt and beat him, here comes this kid and starts winning 10, 12 races at a time in Jeff Gordon, and so, you know, it certainly it was difficult. But it was a great challenge, and you appreciated that.
As I look back on it now, I’m more appreciative of everything that he was able to do and accomplish and the things that he did for the sport. Not that the fact that it took anything away, but the things that it the advantages that it brought to all of us.
JEFF BURTON: And I think one of the things that happens, too, when you’re competing against someone like that, I know it sounds crazy but you really don’t give them the respect because he drives for Hendrick, or he’s doing that because you end up making a you end up buying into some of the excuses, because you and your team are working as hard as you can doing all that you can, and they’re beating you.
I think that when you’re in the middle of that, you just don’t give the respect to the guy that he deserves, and I think that happens in every sport. I think it’s happened to Jimmie Johnson. If you had a conversation today who the greatest drivers are in NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson doesn’t roll off the tip of everybody’s tongue, but he’s won six championships. There are only two drivers, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, that have won more, and they’ve only won one more. But if you ask current drivers, they wouldn’t say that, and it’s because you just don’t give the guy the respect because you’re competing against him, and if you do, well, that means he might be better than you. Looking back on it, it was incredible what he did, and we use the word great from time to time, but what they did was truly great.
I was wondering what TV providers is Hot Pass available on, and also, when you have an unexpected six hour rain delay, how do you decide what to fill it with?
THE MODERATOR: I can take the first one. So all major TV providers who carry NBCSN, which is in 85 million homes, so it’s widespread. I’ll kick it over to the guys for the rain delay coverage question.
JEFF BURTON: Well, I think the rain is obviously none of us are producing the show, but I think the rain is mostly the hot topic of the day. There’s obviously hot there’s things that are going on specific to that racetrack, specific to a championship. There’s always something going on in our sport, and I think we tend to focus on those things that are going on, and then there’s also times it allows us to kind of do special interest stories, where NASCAR America or one of the shows on NBC has done a feature on somebody. That gives us another chance to show that.
So I think it’s a it’s a variety of things.
DALE JARRETT: And you’re fortunate in the case that with Phoenix with NBC, unlike Daytona, where it was the first race that we had to do a lot of film, the drivers were very accommodating there, but you get into Phoenix, you’ve got a lot more stories and races to look back on and interviews and things that you had, and obviously a lot more a lot of other things that had happened, so we could bring that up and do a lot of showing and talking about that.
JEFF BURTON: Yeah, and I’ll chime in here and say, as Dale said, when we were at Daytona, we didn’t have we didn’t have a lot of features, didn’t have a lot of things. NBC does a great job of telling stories and telling stories about drivers, telling stories about the sport and telling stories about where the sport is at this point in time, why this is important, why that’s important, whatever it may be. So in a rain delay, you do have that opportunity to run those features and run those pieces, whether it be the roundtable, whether it be a piece on Martin Truex, whether it be a piece on Jeff Gordon, to familiarize the fans with what this sport is all about and reacquaint them with the drivers and the heroes that they want to hear about because that’s why they tune in. They tune in for the personality and for these drivers as much as anything else.
DJ, with Jeff having his last race and vying for a championship, I’m curious, I think you’re the only one of the guys there who actually kind of knew when their last race was going to be. Could you imagine trying to go and concentrate on trying to win a title on the day that you know it’s your last race, and I assume you have more friends and family there than you would normally?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, and Jeff and I have had that conversation over the last couple of weeks a little bit. Could I imagine being in that situation, no, that would have been incredible because of all the planning, everything that everybody wants you to do and be a part of. It becomes a huge distraction.
But I think in maybe a crazy kind of way here, as I talked to Jeff about this a little bit, that the win at Martinsville has actually put him in a better place with this because he and I had talked a number of times about that last race and what it was going to be like and the feelings and the emotions leading up to it. Now he has a championship just to concentrate on, and with everyone around him understanding that, yeah, this is his last race still, it’s much bigger now for us to give him his time and be understanding of the fact that he can go out a winner and a champion here in his last race. What a great story.
So I think that it helps everybody understand the magnitude of it more than if he were just going there for his last race, and so in a crazy way, it’s kind of worked out best in that respect. They had already planned a big party for him, so can you imagine the celebration after if he’s able to win this championship?
It’s going to be tough still leading up to it. He’s got a lot of things happening, regardless of whether he wins the championship or not. I think it’ll probably take a few days and maybe even weeks for him to understand and realize, hey, this was a great ride but it is over for me. But I think it’s, again, kind of unique that he’s got this chance and that everybody is going to let him focus on that.
What kind of emotions do you remember from your last race? Do you just start I don’t want to say start reminiscing or thinking, but I know he knows what he’s going to do, just like you did. What goes through your mind?
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I think that you let yourself think back a little bit, but I think you’re trying to understand the moment, and that’s the one that I think that I’ve told Jeff is that take it in because there’s so many things that are happening that you want to be able to remember it. You know, it’s just like championship years, what all did happen to make this possible.
You know, those emotions start to get away from you a little. I thought at my last race that I ran, the All Star Race in Charlotte, that I had everything kind of well in hand until it was time to get in the car, and then and I was fortunate, mine wasn’t a points paying race for anything, but it kind of got away from me at that time as I got in the car, realizing that was the last time I was going to do it. Now he’s got to do that, and I’m sure those emotions are going to come to him as he looks around at everyone, but he quickly has to focus. He’s got 400 miles to go out a champion, and that’s, again, what makes him who Jeff Gordon is and has been, that he’ll be able to separate that.
But it’ll be a tough day Sunday leading up to that time that he crawls in the car.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks to everyone for joining us today, especially Sam, Jeff, Steve, Dale and Kyle.
–NBC SPORTS GROUP–