Dale Earnhardt Jr. has called races from the broadcast booth, a secondary booth, a pit box and a scaffold in a turn. He has served as a pit reporter for a practice session and also spent a practice outside the Pocono fence.
Needless to say, NBC is using Earnhardt in a variety of ways. That isn’t unusual, as NBC appears to want to put its talent in different positions.
Earnhardt has been applauded for his enthusiasm and insights over the eight races he has worked. When responsible for doing reads coming out of a break, he might need some work, but he remains authentic.
Earnhardt has had the benefit of some great races, and his use of the “slide job” phrase was a sensation, albeit probably short-lived.
“That was just a natural reaction to what I was seeing,” Earnhardt said. “In a moment like that, I’m enjoying it and reacting like a fan. … I was really surprised that took off like it did.”
The former Cup driver said last month the most difficult parts are the pre-produced segments. The instant analysis seems to flow much easier.
The driver still seems tickled that he is getting paid to hang out at the racetrack and talk racing, something he would naturally want to do.
“NBC is going to send me to all the tracks and they’re going to pay me to talk about it,” Earnhardt said last month. “It’s a dream come true to be honest with you.
“It just comes down to the fans’ opinion of the broadcasts, the fans’ opinion of the job we do and I do whether I get to stick around. … I’m trying to deliver and play my role.”
Earnhardt shouldn’t have to worry about being sent to the showers anytime soon; he signed a multiyear deal with NBC Universal. The significance of that contract is it is not with NBC Sports, meaning he likely will have the ability to expand his work across multiple platforms.
“Not only was he a [NASCAR] Most Popular Driver, not only was a very successful race car driver, but we all know he is a huge historian of the sport,” said fellow NBC telecaster and his former crew chief, Steve Letarte. “He understands every decade — the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s — which helps him because he can relate to all the fans, from the 14-year-old to the grandfather.
“That’s what makes him unique.”