They’re back, back again.
This weekend’s Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the return of NBC to the broadcast booth, providing insider scoop for the remainder of the season including the playoffs and the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The NBC Sports crew of Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is back in action with Rick Allen in the booth, Marty Snider, Dave Burns, Kelli Stavast and Parker Kligerman on pit road while Krista Voda, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan set the stage for each race weekend.
RELATED: Full Chicagoland schedule
Earnhardt made his first appearance as an NBC analyst last season during the network’s debut at Chicagoland and did not disappoint.
The race ended with Dale Jr. yelling ‘Slide job!’ in the booth as Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson bumped and battled on the last lap for the victory, with Busch ultimately taking home the checkered flag. That moment became almost iconic throughout the NASCAR world for the remainder of the season.
“Well, when I was hollering slide job, I was yelling it at Rick Allen, I wasn’t talking to the audience as much as I was Rick,” Earnhardt explained. “So, when we’re in the booth, when it’s great, I think is when it’s us four having a conversation with each other and we’re just talking racing and about what we’re seeing. In that moment, I’m hollering at Rick, ‘Hey, here comes a slide job!’
“Rick is tasked with calling the final lap of the race and I was just like, ‘Hey buddy, look what I see, this is what I see.'”
RELATED: Relive Dale Jr.’s slide job call
Burton, Letarte and Allen have years of experience announcing from the booth and used their knowledge to help rookie Dale Jr. get acclimated.
“It was a tribute to Rick (Allen) and Jeff (Burton) and Steve (Letarte) getting me that comfortable that quickly,” Earnhardt said. “I’m really a shy guy and a bit of an introvert, to be honest, and they worked really hard as a group of three guys, to help me get comfortable as fast as I could. We had a lot of mock broadcasts last year that helped me a ton. We talked a lot, communicated together a lot and they all went out of their way to help me get comfortable quickly.”
Don’t let Dale’s natural persona in the booth fool you, though. The retired driver claims that it wasn’t always smooth sailing from that debut broadcast.
“Not every broadcast got better after that, from my point of view, from what I was doing in the booth,” Earnhardt said. “I remember one race, in particular, at Pocono, in the first stage, we got done and I told them, I said, ‘I was awful, I couldn’t figure out when to speak.’ And they’re like, ‘Look, get aggressive. We’re not going to hold your hand here and stop talking so you can come in here and say what you need to say. You’ve got to work your way into this conversation.’ ”
NBC’s coverage last season included the first race for the inaugural Charlotte Roval, where Jimmie Johnson crashed into leader Martin Truex Jr. in the final chicane, handing Ryan Blaney the victory from the third position. The close battle within the Championship 4 provided compelling story lines and the crowning of a new champion in Joey Logano.
Executive Producer Sam Flood is looking forward to the next 20 weeks and continuing to give the fans what they want week in and week out, while incorporating new ideas and promotions in the booth. He also gave FOX Sports a nod for its increase in ratings throughout the first half of the season.
“We’re going to keep having fun and mixing it up,” Flood said. “Steve Letarte told me when we were first talking about Dale Jr., he said, ‘Dale likes to be challenged, if it’s just kind of make the donuts and the pattern stays the same, he’s not going to be as engaged.’ ”
“But, we engaged the heck out of him last year and I think we learned something, that we’re better when we’ve got challenges with new techniques and new groupings.”
Dale Jr.’s booth co-hosts enjoyed what he brought to the broadcast last season and the group is just as excited, if not more, to get this season going.
“I am so fired up about getting back going,” Burton said. “We have a good time together; we just love what we do. If I could have a race right now, I would.”