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NBC/TNT Ready for 2nd Half Schedule

NEW YORK – July 7, 2004 – Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup race from Chicagoland Speedway launches the fourth season of NASCAR on NBC & TNT – and first with the new “Chase for the Nextel Cup” to determine the series champion.

NBC begins its coverage from Chicago with a special one-hour “Discover Card Countdown to Green” pre-race show at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday followed by green flag racing at 3:30 p.m. ET.  NBC also provides exclusive live coverage of NASCAR Busch Series Racing from Chicago Presented by Trimspa on Saturday, July 6 at 2 p.m. ET. 

The NASCAR on NBC & TNT team returns for its fourth year together:  Play-by-play announcer Allen Bestwick; analysts Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach; pre-race host and lead pit reporter Bill Weber; and pit reporters Dave Burns, Marty Snider and Matt Yocum.  Producer Sam Flood and director Mike Wells will have 61 cameras, including robotic cameras in all four turns, at their disposal this weekend.

“From talking to the drivers, the chase is already on,” said Weber.  “The guys who are on the outside looking in, which includes some pretty impressive names – Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Kasey Kahne, who’s having a great year as a rookie – are desperately trying to get in.  The guys who are in the top 10 are desperately hanging on.  There will be no holding back in the races leading up to Richmond (Sept. 19, the final race before the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup).  With the Chase, we are actually covering two races now.  That makes it more fun as well as more entertaining.”

Parsons, the 1973 Winston Cup champion, agrees.  “We’ve got a very exciting battle on our hands.  Four drivers are within 156 points of getting in the Chase and closing that gap is very doable.  A lot is going to happen between Chicago and Richmond.”

At Chicago – the first of 19 culminating races on NBC and TNT – NBC will introduce “Inside the Field” as a new element for race coverage on NBC & TNT.  “The signature of our telecasts has always been our ‘Through the Field’ element, where we go 20-25 drivers deep, four to six times a race,” said Flood. 

“We understand that not every car runs in the top 20, so we’ve created a new vehicle – ‘Inside the Field’ – in which our pit reporters will dig up stories about non-top 20 drivers.  We’ll also talk to 10-11 drivers in our pre-race telecast each week and this week we’ll hear from 18 different drivers in our special hour-long pre-race show.

“We’ll be able to tell more championship stories this year with 10 cars in the Chase for the Nextel Cup and all the cars trying to get into the final 10. Having more characters involved makes the stories all the more interesting, but first and foremost, we’re covering the story of the race.  Who wins that race is the story.  It’s not easy to win a NASCAR Nextel Cup race.  In fact, this week Bill Weber contributes a feature in our pre-race show about just how difficult it is to win.  The winner of the race should be celebrated.”

Weber:  “There is so much talent in the Nextel Cup series now, both on the track and behind the drivers – you have to be flawless to win.  You have to hope you have a perfect race and that everybody else doesn’t.”

NASCAR on NBC & TNT Conference Call Highlights

NBC Sports conducted a conference call today to preview this season’s coverage.  A replay of the call is available at 729/457-0820 (code 590676).  Following are highlights from Flood’s comments on the NBC & TNT NASCAR production philosophy:

Flood on storytelling:  “You’ve got to look at the big story.  Unlike football or baseball where you can follow the ball and you’ve got the story, we’ve got to follow all the stories.  At a racetrack like Chicago, the first couple of years here, there was a lot of single-file racing.  If you are just covering that race single-file, it can get slow in terms of the telecast. Our job is to make sure we’re bringing the story home and making it exciting. Our theory is there are no boring races, only boring telecasts – and we refuse to ever have a boring telecast. We have a thing this year called ‘Operation Entertainment.’ When a race gets strung out, we’re going to make sure we go ‘Through the Field’ extra times because it is an opportunity to show more drivers and bring the excitement and energy that is driven from pit road, from all the audio energy and the excitement that our pit reporters can bring in a ‘Through the Field.’”

Flood on NBC and TNT breaking out of commercials: “It’s critical to break out of a commercial, if at all possible, to show what is happening on the racetrack when something big happens, like a wreck, like even the points leader coming in for a pit stop late in the championship season - all things we’ve done in the past to make sure the audience isn’t missing anything.  We find that is an advantage to our advertisers, because there is no opportunity to surf during a commercial on NBC and TNT because if you go away, who knows if we are back after 10 seconds, 30 seconds or a whole commercial break?  It’s an added bonus to both our advertisers and to our fans.”

Flood on what it means to have the second half of the NASCAR Nextel Cup season: “We’ve got 19 weeks, the first nine of which are about the race to the Chase, the race to making it into that final 10.  And then the last 10 races are the ‘Chase for the Championship.’ How great is it that we are all focused on this last half of the season with those storylines?  It’s a nice advantage having that – the way the schedule works we have the important races as it counts down to the Nextel Cup.”